By Steve Robinson | June 29, 2008 - 11:18 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Peoria Pirates

FootballPEORIA – Even with confidence in backup quarterback Donald Carrie, the Peoria Pirates’ downward spiral continued Saturday at Carver Arena. The Pirates wound up on the wrong end of a 61-33 lopsided loss to visiting Lexington.

A Carver Arena crowd of 3,884 fans watched as head coach Bruce Cowdrey’s team stumbled through, what for the Pirates, became a scoreless first quarter.

First, Lexington (8-5) converted a Peoria fumble into their first score, a 28-yard pass from quarterback Eddie Eviston to receiver John Cooper at 10:20 in the first quarter, putting the Horsemen up, 7-0, following kicker Douglas Daniels’ point-after.

Then, during the ensuing possession, Lexington defenders reined in and then tackled Carrie at 7:34, crediting defensive lineman Jamal Naji with a safety, giving the Horsemen a 9-0 lead with which to begin the second quarter.

Peoria PiratesPirates mainstay receiver Phillip Brock put Peoria (4-9) on the scoreboard for the first time at 14:48 in the second quarter on a 9-yard run, but kicker David Hendrix’s extra point sailed wide, giving Lexington a 9-6 lead.

Eviston connected with receiver Chad Spencer at 10:22 in the second quarter, giving the Horsemen a 15-6 edge after Daniels missed his extra point.

Carrie would connect with Brock on a 31-yard pass for a touchdown at 1:32 before halftime, capping a 2-play, 40-yard drive, bringing the Pirates within two, 15-13. But Hendrix would miss another extra point.

That small margin, as it turned out, would be as close as the Pirates would come in this first Pirates-Horsemen rematch since the two met in week two in Kentucky, which Peoria won by a 46-28 count.

Running Back Harry Lewis’ 11-yard touchdown reception with five seconds until halftime was the first of three unanswered Lexington scores which forced Peoria to play catch-up to open the second half. Lexington entered halftime with a 21-13 lead.

Lexington HorsemenLexington special teams added to Peoria fans’ angst when Chris Royal weaved through defenders on his way to a 58-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, increasing the Horsemen’s lead to 28-13 following Daniels’ point after.

Eviston piled the third touchdown of the three at 12:56 in the third, increasing Lexington’s lead to 34-13 after Royal’s extra point try failed.

Brock had what amounted to back-to-back scores in the third quarter, giving the fans some hope for a comeback. At 11:10 in the third, Brock’s 35-yard touchdown reception, followed by Hendrix’s point-after cut Lexington’s lead to 34-20.

Lexington’s next possession was interrupted, seven plays in, by Pirates linebacker Randy Chappell with 6:06 in the third quarter, giving Peoria the ball on their own 18. Four plays later, Carrie and Brock connected again on a 12-yard touchdown pass, cutting Lexington’s lead and opening the fourth quarter with a 34-27 count after another Hendrix point-after.

AF2Lexington’s play in the fourth quarter was equal to how it had played in the first, boxing Peoria out of any scoring opportunities, using Eviston’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper as a springboard for four scores in the period, going in front of the Pirates, 61-27 with 18 seconds left in the game.

Carrie was able to connect with receiver De’Tario Frederick with five seconds left in the contest for the Pirates’ last score of the night, a 30-yard touchdown strike, resulting in the final score following Hendrix’s point-after.

“We’re just not tough enough emotionally or physically,” Cowdrey said afterward. “You can’t make these kinds of mistakes and expect to win.”

All 29 of af2’s teams get a league-impose bye week as a result of the Fourth of July holiday next week. The Pirates travel to Pennsylvania July 12 – Cowdrey’s birthday — for a rematch with Wilkes Barre/Scranton.

FootballPEORIA – Peoria Pirates Executive Coach Tony Johnson is happy being among players wearing silver and black once again.

Johnson was a familiar face both along the sidelines and around Carver Arena when the Pirates had their first go-round at Carver Arena from 1999-2004. He served as defensive coordinator to Head Coach Bruce Cowdrey during that period, and, after the Pirates joined arenafootball2 for the first time in 2001, went on to develop one of the league’s more modeled-after community campaigns, “Treasure Life.”

But Johnson, like some other loyal Pirates faithful who had been around the team from the beginning, quietly exited when the Peoria Rough Riders of United Indoor Football came to town.

Peoria PiratesWhen the Pirates re-emerged after Texas businessman Doug MacGregor invested in returning af2 to Peoria, Johnson said Cowdrey asked him to reboard Peoria’s silver-and-black ship yet again, this time, in the capacity of Executive Coach.

Johnson, who works at Caterpillar as division manager for Cat’s Mining Division, knew that particular assignment would keep him on the road for Big Yellow, but agreed to return to the Pirates in the new capacity which he has used to talk to Pirates players about more than just football.

Besides talking strategy on-the-field, Johnson said he has been informing players of “the importance of (being an) off-the-field Pirate, too.”

“(Part of what I tell them is that) 4,000 people see you on the field, but 200,000 people (in the community) see you off the field,” Johnson explained.

“We talk about being engaged in the community and doing the right things,” he said.

Lexington HorsemenHe tells them – not to mention any civic organization or school classroom filled with kids during off-season appearances – that good character traits, including the ones outlined in the word “treasure,” Teamwork, Respect, Education, (dealing with) Adversity, Sportsmanship, “You”, Relationships, and Effort – are keys to life whether one is on or off a football field.

“Treasure Life” has backing from the Pirates organization, Caterpillar, and WMBD-TV (Channel 31). At each home game, Johnson takes center stage at mid-field at Carver Arena and introduces the crowd to a weekly “Treasure Life” nominated honoree. Young people in kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible.

Now, even Johnson’s 17-year-old daughter, Missy, has joined forces with her dad in Treasure Life, creating a group called “Faith In Football.” Faith In Football holds a meeting prior to every home game and gets a chance to hear from a member of the coaching staff before every game.

Return Was A Family Decision: It was, literally, a family decision for Johnson’s family – including, of course, wife Chris and 11-year-old son Trent, — to get back on the Pirates family roster. Some fans may recall a younger Trent as a mascot nicknamed “The Rock” from the previous Pirates stint. Now though, Trent is happy serving as a ball boy for the team.

AF2Lexington Visits Saturday: The Lexington Horsemen visit Carver Arena Saturday at 7p.m., anticipating to be led by their veteran quarterback, Eddie Eviston, who has been sidelined by injury for the last two weeks.

Eviston sat out with a kidney injury missing the first two games of this month against Tennessee Valley and Albany. Upon his return against in-state rival Louisville Fire last week, an Eviston fumble at the Louisville 1-yard line with 40 seconds left, cost the Horsemen a chance at a come-from-behind victory. The Fire won the game, 54-50.

The Pirates opened 2008 with a 46-28 victory over the Horsemen at Rupp Arena on April 5. Pirates quarterback Jason Rascati completed 12-of-24 passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns.

Squib Kicks: Saturday’s Pirates promotion is billed as “Youth Sports Night”…The Bloomington Extreme will host United Indoor Football’s Eastern Conference championship at 7p.m. Monday at U. S. Cellular Coliseum, taking on the River City Rage, with the winner going to UIF’s “United Bowl IV” championship game.

By Steve Robinson | June 19, 2008 - 2:42 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Peoria Pirates

FootballDES MOINES, Iowa – Football coaches and fans are of one mindset – they both want to see their team win. But how coaches and fans see getting the next victory, based on an opponent’s luck the week before, differs.

Understandably, fans see the next opponent slumping and sometimes, assume a victory is coming. Coaches like Peoria’s Bruce Cowdrey, take the opposite tack, reminding players that, the opponent – regardless of their record – should never be taken for an easy victory.

Such is the case for the 4-7 Peoria Pirates as they visit the Iowa Events Center here Saturday for a rematch with the 3-8 Iowa Barnstormers.

Under John Gregory, Iowa is currently in the middle of a five-game losing streak, as Cowdrey’s Pirates arrive. Iowa’s last win was on May 10, a 48-39 victory over Louisville.

Since then, the Barnstormers have been unable to pull themselves out of a five-game losing tailspin, including Peoria’s 45-35 victory over them at Carver Arena on May 24.

Peoria PiratesThat Pirates victory gave Cowdrey’s crew a 2-1 series advantage over Iowa, dating back to when the two teams originally entered af2 in 2001.

The worst of the losses Iowa has had in the lot of five was at the hands of af2’s current champs, the Tulsa Talons, on the road last week by a 48-31 count.

Starting Anew: The series between the two teams began in 2001. Over 9,200 fans saw Peoria win the first meeting against Iowa in Carver Arena on May 4, 2001 by the score of 48-34. On June 9, Iowa’s 62-20 home win evened the series.

Neither team made the playoffs that season, with Peoria finishing 7-9, tied for fourth in what was then a seven-team division, and Iowa finished at 9-7 in third but mathematically did not qualify for the playoffs.

’08 Playoff Picture: The top eight teams in each conference go to af2’s playoffs. If Peoria expects to still have a shot, they will need to get back on the winning track this week and hope for some help. Currently, the 4-7 Pirates are 10th in line in the American Conference, with the 5-6 Manchester Wolves, currently 9th, standing in front of them. The 6-5 Louisville Fire has the eighth and final slot for now.

Iowa BarnstormersThe Pirates have lost at least one game this season to each of the top three teams in the Conference – Top seed Wilkes Barre/Scranton is 9-2, leading af2’s Eastern Division (Peoria will get another shot at the Pioneers on the road next month, looking to avenge a 74-26 home opening loss); Second seed Green Bay (8-3) is leading the Midwest Division and can claim two wins at the Pirates’ expense this season; and the third seed Florida Firecats, leading af2’s Southern Division, won a home game over the Pirates in April.

South Georgia, who Peoria will play in the Pirates’ Carver Arena regular season finale July 19, and the Tennessee Valley Vipers are each 7-4, and seeded fifth and sixth, respectfully, right in front of seventh seed Quad City. Tennessee Valley, like the Pirates, are owned by Doug MacGregor.

Three af2 teams MacGregor owns which are part of the league’s National Conference are also positioned for the playoffs. His flagship team, the Austin Wranglers, who joined af2 this season after being part of the parent Arena Football League since 2004, are seeded third in the National Conference. Other MacGregor-owned teams already in the playoffs are the fifth seed Lubbock Renegades, and seventh seed Amarillo Dusters.

AF2Peoria isn’t the only team within MacGregor’s 50-yard empire fighting from outside trying to get in. The Corpus Christi Sharks and Boise Burn, each at 5-6 on the year, are in 9th and 10th slots, respectfully. They are followed in the 11th slot by the Tri-Cities Fever, who lost in Peoria in April.

Squib Kicks: Peoria sent two defensive ends, Charles Edwards and Tim Hunt, packing, and signed two new ones, signed defensive ends Dallas Flynn and Anton Lindsay… In addition, Peoria released offensive lineman Adam Tadisch.

Town of NormalNORMAL – By a 4-3 vote, Normal’s Town Council approved a resolution conditionally authorizing a contract for the Uptown Street and Streetscape project. The contract would be with Bloomington-based Stark Excavating Co.

Partly contributing to the reason for the vote was a proposed fountain for a new traffic circle, or roundabout, which would be part of the renovation near Beaufort Ave. in Uptown Normal.

A roundabout is a type of junction in a road at which traffic enters a one-way stream around a central island.

Mayor Chris Koos, joined by Council members Sonja Reece, Chuck Scott, and Cheryl Gaines, voted in favor of the resolution, while Council members Adam Nielsen, Jason Chambers, and Jeff Fritzen were voted in opposition to it.

But Nielsen had a simple solution to the budgetary issue: Eliminate the fountain.

“Do away with the (fountain) if it causes the project to be ‘pricey,'” Nielsen said.

Council member Sonja Reece suggested postponing any discussion of fountains until a future meeting, rather than “canceling the fountain altogether.”

Chambers told the Council, “I always found the water feature to be somewhat troublesome” due to the area’s climate, among other factors.

Reece said she was concerned about the public’s reaction to any future Council decision regarding the project.

She said she fears the public will criticize the Council regardless of any decision they make.

City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members that Town Planner Wayne Aldrich recommends accepting all bids as proposed by companies wishing to work on the project, and then work to value engineer items per State and Federal guidelines.

“Can we reduce the cost by $1.2 million?,” Peterson asked rhetorically. “No, But we can come back (to the council) no later than its second meeting in July to talk about additional funding.”

Peterson said the additional funding sources could include using either bonds or applying for grant money.

Peterson said the Uptown Street and Streetscape Project is a two-year venture.

The Council will take up the funding matter again at its July 21 meeting.

Parking Deck Nears Completion: Council members passed two resolutions relating to the College Ave. Parking Deck as nears it completion. City Manager Mark Peterson said the new parking structure – one of three for the Uptown area — is slated to open June 30.

First, Council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing change orders in the amount of $181,202 with Morton-based CORE Construction for Wayfinding Signage and Surveillance Cameras for the Parking Deck.

That was followed by Council members unanimously passing a resolution to authorize payment for additional services to Bloomington-based The Farnsworth Group, Inc. in the amount of $46,500 for design services related to Value Engineering and Re-Issuance of plans for the parking deck.

Omnibus Agenda Approved: Items approved on the Council’s omnibus agenda include:

• Approval of the minutes of the Public Hearing on June 2, 2008.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting on June 2, 2008.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of June 11, 2008.

• A motion to approve an expenditure of $10,500 to Twinstar Productions, Inc. for the “City Vision” cable television show.

• A motion to approve a $10,500 funding request submitted by the YWCA of McLean County for the Wheels To Work Program.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an Amended Employment Agreement with City Manager Mark Peterson.

• A resolution accepting Dedication of Right Of Way – 603 S. Linden Ave.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a conditional Right Of Entry License – Masonic Lodge #673.

• A conditional resolution partially approving the Final Plat of the first addition to the Oaks On Hovey PUD in the Town of Normal.

• A conditional resolution partially approving a Final Plat for the First Addition to Constitution Trail Centre, a Planned Unit Development in the Town of Normal, Illinois.

• An Ordinance amending Section 25.15-8 of the Town Municipal Code to increase the Food and Beverage Late Fee Penalty from 5% to 10%.

• An ordinance amending Code Sections 11.4-6(E), 11.4-7(E), 22.8-5(C) & (d), and 25.16-2 and 26.16-4 regarding fees; Establish August 1st as the Housing Fees Annual Collection Date.

• An ordinance increasing the Non-Sufficient Funds Check Charge from $20 to $25.

• An ordinance establishing prevailing wage rates.

By Steve Robinson | June 15, 2008 - 2:26 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Sports

BaseballNORMAL – The U. S. Softball team took two more steps Saturday toward a date in Beijing at the Summer Olympics, visiting Champion Field here.

Team USA, led by pitching standout Jennie Finch, won two games – a shutout, followed by a blowout – as a crowd of roughly 4,000 fans watched.

Members of teams from Olympia and Tremont were among the area players who packed the stands to see Team USA in person. ESPN will televise the games Team USA played here on Sunday, July 13 starting at 1p.m.

Team USA 6, Team NPF 0: Team USA (46-1) and superstar pitcher Jennie Finch wasted not time, dazzling the crowd with a 6-0 win over Team National Pro Fastpitch. Finch struck out four in 3 1/3 innings of work before handing matters over to teammate Monica Abbott to finish the job. Finch picked up her 15th victory of the tour in the process.

Team USA SoftballOffensively, Team USA began their 32nd win on a neutral diamond when outfielder Caitlin Lowe’s double in the second inning scored teammates Crystal Bustos and Kelly Kretschman, giving Team USA a 2-0 lead. Later in the same inning, the lead increased to 3-0 on a double by Tairia Flowers which scored one more run, giving Team USA a 3-0 lead.

Fans even got to see a homerun in the opening game, as Bustos belted her 21st homer of the tour over the center field fence to the delight of the crowd.

Team USA 19, Bloomington Hearts 0: The local team was not as lucky to stay in the game against the Beijing-bound squad. Umpires employed the 15-run rule after four innings, as Team USA beat the Bloomington Hearts, 19-0. Team USA found strength behind plays like catcher Stacey Nuveman’s second inning grand slam homer which put Team USA up 9-0. Team USA finished the inning with a 10-0 lead

Tiffany Prager a former Olympia High basketball player and former member of Illinois State University’s softball team, now playing for the Hearts, was Bloomington’s lead-off hitter for the game but struck out as a result of Team USA pitcher Cat Oesterman’s handiwork.