NORMAL – Typically, regardless of who their opponent is, Normal Community High School’s football team comes out firing in the first quarter appearing to try to get a message across of what the rest of the night will be for the opponents. Normal Community West High School does the same thing, too, but when the two sides met Friday, Sept. 6 for their annual “Chili Bowl” matchup, the home team Wildcats defense managed to keep NCHS scoreless for the first half.

NCHS recovered enough in the second half to register a come-from-behind 19-14 Big 12 Conference win before roughly 900 people.

Following a fast scoreless first quarter, senior quarterback Carson Camp’s 11 yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Max Ziebarth gave Normal West (1-1 Big 12 and overall) their first points on the board followed by a successful extra point by freshman kicker Owen Senn, putting the host Wildcats up, 7-0, at 9:04 in the second quarter. That score would hold going into halftime.

Normal West deferred the win of the pre-game coin toss, opting to take the ball to start the second half. But their effort to start that half was short-lived when Camp, with West having the ball at their own 30, was hit on the third play of scrimmage by Ironmen defenders and coughed up the ball which was recovered by NCHS junior outside linebacker Jude Lowery. NCHS managed to start their next set of downs from West’s 23, scoring when senior quarterback Aidan Oliver connected with senior wide receiver Camron Jackson for a touchdown. Freshman kicker Ryan Millmore missed his first extra point on the night, giving West a 7-6 lead, with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

West’s, next possession, which began from their own 9 yard line, was moving forward, getting to their own 18 until it was interrupted by NCHS senior inside linebacker Grant Miller’s picking off a Camp pass at the West 40. From there, Miller evaded Wildcats players to get into the end zone for a touchdown at the 10 minute mark in the third quarter. The score was followed by a failed extra point try by Millmore, but the Ironmen went in front, 13-7, with 7:47 left in the quarter. That score would hold going into the fourth quarter.

Normal West would have two more unsuccessful possessions and NCHS (2-0 Big 12 and overall) one before Ironmen senior running back Jake Hileman’s 2 yard running touchdown at 11:57 in the fourth quarter, followed by another failed 2-point play try. That increased NCHS’ advantage to 19-7.

Following the ensuing kickoff by NCHS, the Wildcats started their next drive from their own 32. Eight plays later, Camp connected with junior wide receiver LaTre Billups on a 19 yard touchdown with 9:40 left in the contest, followed by Senn’s extra point, resulting in NCHS’ lead being cut to 19-14.

West tried to mount a march for a come from behind score as time ticked away, but one drive was hampered by two incomplete passes and Camp being sacked, forcing West to punt the ball away with 7:30 left.

“This game was emotional because we’re always so proud of our kids and how hard they play,” explained NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz afterward. “There was never any finger-pointing. The guys just kept playing, playing hard and giving everything they could and being coachable and making the right play at the right time.

“It was a hard fought battle, a tough win against a really good team, a really good defense and great quarterback, and great coaching staff,” Drengwitz added. “It was just emotional more than anything for me.”

“The big thing about the game was about how if we had penalties and turnovers we’re not going to be a very good football team,” Normal West head coach Nate Fincham said. “In the first half, we played pretty well and stuck to the game plan. In the second half, we had some penalties and turned the ball over and NCHS scored pretty quickly off of them.

“Normal did a pretty good job in the second half of mixing up their coverages and were double-teaming us,” Fincham added.

Both Unit 5 high schools play Big 12 opponents this weekend with Normal West hosting their homecoming game against Danville Friday night at Wildcat Field starting a 7p.m. Danville beat Urbana 53-22 to go 1-1 on the season Friday. NCHS travels to Urbana for a 7p.m. game. Urbana is currently 0-2 on the season.

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