By Steve Robinson | October 31, 2010 - 10:17 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – With 2:18 left in their IHSA Class 6A opening round playoff game against Crete-Monee, and Normal West trailing by 7, Wildcats senior quarterback Tyler Marcordes and his offense had to know they were no longer battling just their visitors, but also the clock as well. Each tick off the clock tried to bring an end to their postseason hopes staying alive.

Starting at their own 41 yard line, Marcordes was able to use a draw play and two passes — to junior receivers Braxton Moore and Cory Ortiz – to get the Wildcats down inside the Crete-Monee 10 yard line before incomplete passing and a tough Warriors defense put an end to the Wildcats’ season, as Crete-Monee defeated Normal West, 35-28.

Normal West (7-3), seeded third, found themselves with the ball on Crete-Monee’s 21 yard line after a Warriors punt, and scored one play later on a run by Ortiz with 10:20 on the clock in the first quarter. The point after by senior kicker Matthew Barnet gave the Wildcats a fast 7-0 lead.

West increased that lead to 14-0, capitalizing on a Warriors fumble at their own 7 yard line on the first play after kickoff, with 3:55 left in the first quarter. One play later, Marcordes ran into the end zone for a score, followed by Barnet’s extra point.

Normal West FootballCrete-Monee (7-3), seeded sixth, scored for the first time on their very next possession, marching 80 yards on seven plays, with senior running back Julius Spicer going in for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:47 left in the quarter. West owned a 14-6 lead going into the second quarter, after the missed extra point by Warriors senior kicker Jack Mykytiuk.

A 33-yard touchdown pass from Crete-Monee senior quarterback Jaylan Bailey to senior receiver Lexus Jackson with 6:24 left in the second quarter, cut West’s lead to 14-12. Bailey ran past Wildcats defenders into the end zone on the Warriors’ 2-point conversion try, tying the game at 14-all.

Marcordes sprinted 65 yards to get West’s next score, gaining blockers along the way, scoring for West with 3:52 left in the quarter. Smith’s next extra point put Normal West up, 21-14.

Bailey would connect with Jackson again before the first half ended, this time from 27 yards out for the Warriors next score, with 1.3 seconds left until halftime. The score capped a 7-play, 44 yard drive, followed up by Mykytiuk’s extra point, tying the game at 21-all.

A 38-yard touchdown pass by Jackson to senior receiver LaQuon Treadwell with 7:22 in the third quarter gave the Warriors a 28-21 lead, following Mykytiuk’s extra point.

West tied the game at 28-all on a 3-yard pass from Marcordes to senior running back Eric Sipes, with 57 seconds left in the third quarter, topped off by Smith’s extra point. Sipes’ score concluded the Wildcats’ 13-play, 74-yard drive to get the score.

Crete-Monee’s decisive score came at the end of a 9-yard pass from Bailey to Spicer, with 2:17 left in the contest. Mykytiuk’s extra point gave fans what was to be the final outcome.

Crete-MoneeMarcordes was 9-for-19 passing for 88 yards and one interception for the Wildcats. His leading target was Sipes, who caught four passes for 30 yards. Marcordes led team rushers with 26 carries for 147 yards.

Bailey was 23-for-34 passing for 344 and two interceptions. His leading receiver was Treadwell, who caught 10 passes for 186 yards. Spicer led the Warriors’ rushing corps with 17 carries for 147 yards.

“No playoff game is ever easy,” Wildcats head coach Darren Hess said afterward. “We could have laid down, but our kids fought back and responded, so, I’m really proud of that.

Senior defensive backs Treyvon Hawkins and Kavontae Grismore each snared an interception for West in the final quarter, but neither of those turned into scoring opportunities.

“I thought we made some great adjustments because of the two interceptions we made in the third quarter,” Hess reminded. “That gave us opportunities to take advantage of those situations, but, unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.

“We’ll learn from this,” Hess concluded. “Our program will get better because we’re going to build off of our momentum and the great effort that our seniors put forth, and we’ll move on.” Saturday’s game was the last one for 16 seniors on the Wildcats roster.

By Steve Robinson | - 10:09 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Visiting fifth seed Lincoln-Way North High, of the Southwest Suburban Conference, turned away fourth seed Normal Community High early from the opening round of the IHSA Class 6A Playoffs, defeating the Ironmen, 45-23, at Ironmen Field, on Oct. 29.

Following an NCHS punt, Lincoln-Way North, whose team nickname is the Phoenix (8-2), scored first on a 33 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jack Irace to senior wide receiver Nolan Gonciarczyk, with 8:12 left in the first quarter. The successful extra point by senior kicker Alex Eaton gave the visitors a 7-0 lead.

A bad snap from center, coupled with a personal interference flag against NCHS on a punt attempt by the Ironmen, helped Lincoln-Way North to score their next touchdown – a one yard run by senior running back Colin Hannigan at 5:29 in the first quarter. That increased the Phoenix’s lead, 14-0, after Eaton’s extra point.

NCHS’ next possession ended in a fumble at their own 42, where Lincoln-Way North took over, marching 7 plays, capped by Irace’s 9 yard touchdown run. Eaton’s extra point closed out the first quarter, but the Phoenix owned a 21-0 lead.

NCHS (7-3) got on the scoreboard for the first time with a 26 yard field goal by kicker Spencer Smith at 5:26 in the second quarter, topping a 9 play, 85 yard drive, cutting the Phoenix’s lead, 21-3.

NCHS senior quarterback Brent Turner connected with senior wide receiver Kyle Rutledge on an 11 yard touchdown pass with 4:02 left in the second quarter, cutting Lincoln-Way North’s lead to 21-10, after adding Smith’s extra point.

Lincoln-Way increased its lead to 28-10, following an 11-yard pass from Irace to senior running back Bo Beniac with 46.3 seconds until halftime. That gave the Phoenix a 28-10 lead following Eaton’s extra point. But fans who headed for the concession stand early after that missed plenty of additional action after that inside the final seconds of the half.

Senior fullback Tyler Willig took the ensuing kickoff at the NCHS 21 yard line and, with blockers leading the way, marched 79 yards for NCHS’ next score, with 36.1 seconds left. Smith missed the point after, but the score cut Lincoln-Way’s lead, 28-16.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lincoln-Way special teams fumbled the ball at their own 10 yard line, where NCHS recovered it. One play later, NCHS senior running back Keegan McIntosh darted into the end zone for a touchdown with 26.8 seconds left. That cut Lincoln-Way’s lead to five – 28-23 – following Smith’s extra point.

NCHS FootballBut Lincoln-Way North’s defense and Irace’s control of his offense put a halt to NCHS’ scoring momentum. The Phoenix scored a touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter and another touchdown in the fourth quarter – all while stifling any additional offensive maneuvering by the Ironmen – en route to their victory.

Irace was 12-for-22 passing for 158 yards and one interception for the Phoenix. His primary receiver was Gonciarczyk, who caught six passes for 95 yards and one score. Hannigan was the Phoenix’s leading rusher, tallying 56 yards on 14 carries.

Turner was 13-for-22 passing for NCHS for 109 yards and one interception. Rutledge was the Ironmen’s leading receiver, catching six passes for 45 yards. McIntosh led NCHS’ receivers with 14 carries for 48 yards.

“This week, Irace did a good job of directing our offense once again,” said Lincoln-Way North head coach George Czart about his 5 foot-7, 142 pound quarterback.

He also had praise for the Ironmen’s performance, particularly in the second quarter. “We knew NCHS wasn’t going to quit,” Czart said. “We knew they weren’t going to quit. They were fighting for their lives right there.”

“First, I want to congratulate Lincoln-Way North. That’s a good football team. My hat is off to them,” said NCHS head coach Wes Temples. “They played hard. They were physical. They did a great job.

“They made most of the things we were able to do for most of the season pretty hard on us,” Temples said. “The better team won, and you hate to say that here because you are hurting for your seniors. Your heart hurts for your seniors.” NCHS has 32 seniors on this season’s roster.

Relay For LifeBloomington, Illinois – October 30, 2010 – Relay For Life of McLean County is pleased to announce it will hold its semi-annual “Shop For Hope And A Cure” event, at the DoubleTree Hotel and Convention Center on Brickyard Rd., Bloomington, on Sunday, November 14, 2010. The event will run from 12 Noon-4p.m.

Don’t miss this chance to support Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society by coming out to Shop for HOPE and a CURE, a craft and vendor show. There will be over 60 booths to choose from offering something for everyone!

Numerous lunch time items will also be available, as will a wide variety of baked items.

This event is a perfect opportunity to shop for upcoming special events such as Christmas, graduation or birthdays – It’s also an ideal opportunity to find items to dress up your home for the holidays!

“’Shop for Hope and a Cure is your one stop shopping for the Holidays,” said Dede Verplaetse, Co-Chair, Relay For Life of McLean County, along with Fran Massie. “There will be plenty of items to choose from for others and for yourself. A great afternoon of food, fun, and shopping while helping us take another step towards beating cancer.”

Raffle tickets will be sold for a chance to win great door prizes.

Bring the whole family for fun and to support a worthy cause!

If you need more information call Pam Garrett at 309-663-4808, or email pammoo@comcast.net or Sharon Kocher at 309-454-2748, or email grizzly63@frontier.com

Relay For Life of McLean County hopes to raise $630,000 in 2011 and have at least 190 teams and 500 survivors at their annual Relay event. Relay For Life of McLean County will be held from noon to noon June 24-25, 2011, at Normal Community West High School.

In 2010, Relay For Life of McLean County raised over $607,000. Since it began in McLean County in 1994, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $5.5 Million to fight cancer. We are looking for more teams to join us in the fight!

More information may be obtained by contacting either of our Event Co-chairs, Fran Massie at 309-664-1612 or Dede Verplaetse (VER-plates) at 309-662-4890.

By Steve Robinson | October 24, 2010 - 10:27 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonRivalry between the two high schools in Normal’s Unit 5 School District is nothing new. Almost from the time Normal Community West High came into being in 1996, the two high schools have been rivals because they were in the Big 12 Conference for all their sports.

We’re used to seeing the two schools duke it out in football, basketball, and baseball. We would have gotten to see them square off in Illinois High School Association football playoffs this weekend if those folks who established each team’s seed had done some additional tweaking.

Ironmen and Wildcats fans got one more chance to root for their respective schools on Saturday at the Soccer Field at NCHS. At stake: IHSA Class 3A Regional championship, with the winner advancing to Sectionals.

It has been a while since I covered high school soccer, and I had forgotten what kind of attention it can command. There were roughly 200 fans waiting out the cold, windy, rainy conditions prior to the game’s start last Saturday.

Dennis Luedtke’s son, Nick, is a sophomore on Normal West’s Soccer squad. Luedtke said that, while the weather has a tendency to deteriorate as the season progresses into playoffs, the fan support by loyal parents like him just grows stronger. The parents have made road trips to see their kids compete, going to places like Bradley Bourbonnais and Moline to see games.

Edgar Morales’ son, Michael, is a junior playing for West, as both a midfielder and a forward. Prior to watching West play Saturday, Morales hinted at something I was wondering about concerning this rivalry. “This game is a kind of a continuation of the rivalry between the two teams,” he said.

Before Saturday’s game, the Ironmen and Wildcats played two games earlier in the season, with West sweeping the season series, winning 1-0 during the Intercity Tournament in early September, and then 2-1 on Sept. 30.

The senior Morales said Saturday’s game “is a big deal between these two schools, between these two teams because these boys have played one another during travel team seasons. Playing this game will mean everything to these boys.”

Todd Smith’s son, Spencer, plays as a kicker on NCHS’ football team and as a goalie on the Ironmen Soccer Team. That means the family is dedicated to seeing Spencer play throughout the fall season in both sports and can because of how the Soccer and Football seasons are scheduled.

“We support Spencer in both of these because both of them are important to him,” Todd Smith said. “This is kind of exciting because this is the regional championship for Soccer. And it’s more exciting because we are playing West.”

“This game is a big deal for the town today,” Smith said. He said the fact that the two Normal schools were facing each other to advance their season made this game a little more exciting than if it were an area school versus a school from out-of-town.

“The big deal” will continue for NCHS players and their fans, as the Ironmen defeated West for the first time this season, 5-1. The Ironmen Soccer team will have moved through Sectionals by the time you read this. West’s season may be over but you can bet the enthusiasm shown by their fans will be on display again when Soccer season rolls around next August.

In the meantime, there will opportunities for the Ironmen-Wildcats rivalry to show itself between now and then: Basketball, Baseball, Football, and Volleyball, to name but a few different sports the fans – not just the players – have taken a vested interest in, thanks to their kids.

By Steve Robinson | October 23, 2010 - 10:21 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Normal Community West finished its 2010 regular season in a big way Oct. 22, beating Mattoon, 56-8, in a Big 12 Conference matchup.

NCHS junior running back Corey Ortiz led off the Wildcats’ scoring with back-to-back touchdown runs. The first score coming at 5:24 of the first quarter on a 13 yd. run. A fumble by Mattoon junior wide receiver Michael Heller, and being recovered by West defenders led to the Wildcats getting the ball deep in Mattoon territory. Ortiz’s touchdown, followed by senior Matthew Barnet’s extra point, gave West a 7-0 lead.

The ensuing possession by Mattoon ended with the ball on the Green Wave’s 22-yard line. West senior defensive lineman Guilianno Barlow blocked a punt by Mattoon senior kicker Douglas Henness, giving West the ball on the Mattoon 2 yard line. One play later, Ortiz ran into the end zone, giving West a 14-0 lead after Barnet’s extra point.

West fans didn’t have to wait for the next Wildcats score, as, with Mattoon on their own 20, senior defensive back Trevon Hawkins intercepted a pass thrown by Mattoon junior quarterback Shaunesy Carlen. Hawkins marched the ball back into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown, followed by another Barnet extra point. That gave West a 21-0 lead going into the second quarter.

“He’s very explosive when he makes those breaks,” said West head coach Darren Hess about Hawkins, 5 foot-9, 170 pound senior.

Normal West FootballWest senior quarterback Tyler Marcordes would get credit for scoring the next two Wildcats touchdowns, both followed by successful Barnet extra points. The first one coming at 11:49 in the second quarter on a 9-yard run, concluding a 7 play, 49 yard drive. That would give West a 28-0 lead.

The next possession for 0-9 Mattoon would end in a punt which would go into the end zone for a touchback. With West starting on their own 20, Marcordes’ second score came in the form of an 80-yard march with 10:34 left in the second quarter. That put West up, 35-0.

Mattoon’s ensuing possession, again, ended in a punt, giving West the ball on the Green Wave’s 30 yard line. Four plays later, junior running back Braxton Moore scored the first of his back-to-back touchdowns, the first one coming from 20 yards out, followed by another Barnet field goal. That increased West’s lead, 42-0, with 8:22 left in the quarter. With one team having a 40-point lead, officials employed a continuously running clock, allowed under Illinois High School Association rules whenever one team has a 40-point lead over their opponents.

An interception led to Mattoon’s next turnover, and again, West capitalized, sending Moore into the end zone at 6:13 until halftime, putting West up, 49-0, concluding a 2 play, 21 yard drive.

Mattoon’s lone touchdown of the contest came with 4:04 left in the third quarter, as senior wide receiver Michael Heller took a direct snap from center, and ran the ball up the middle into the end zone. Heller then threw a successful two-point conversion pass to senior tight end Skyler Hinchee, cutting West’s lead to 49-8.

Mattoon tried an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but West came up with the ball on the Green Wave’s 35 yard line with 3:55 left in the contest. Two plays later, sophomore quarterback Alex Jefferson’s 35 yard touchdown run and the extra point by junior kicker Geoffrey Kohlhase gave West the eventual final score.

Mattoon football“I truly think, going in this week, Mattoon is a better team that shown here,” said Hess. “I’m surprised they didn’t throw it more because their quarterback, Carlen, has a great arm, and they’ve got talented receivers. I think we were able to get to them a little bit early.

“Our kids really came out focused this week,” Hess said. “They wanted to finish on a strong note, and we were able to do that.”

This season’s regular season record of 7-2 is the second best ever for Normal West. There best year was 2004, when the Wildcats finished the season at 8-1.

Pairings for Illinois High School Association Class 6A were announced on Saturday. Although Wildcats fans were probably wishing for another showdown against Normal Community High again this season, it will not be. The No. 3 seed Wildcats will host sixth seed Crete Monee next weekend. NCHS, 7-2 and seeded fourth, will host fifth seed Frankfurt-based Lincoln-Way North later this week.