By Steve Robinson | October 5, 2019 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Community High School managed to outpace Bloomington High School in the second half Friday night to defeat the Purple Raiders in their Big 12 Conference contest, 43-26, at Ironmen Field. For NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz, it has been a season of trying to put a complete game – offense, defense, and special teams – together. This night, Drengwitz said afterward, his team accomplished that.

A scoreless first quarter and a fast-paced first quarter contributed to NCHS’ getting and keeping ahead of their guests as roughly 850 fans watched.

BHS had first possession but would up punting on fourth down to NCHS (5-1 overall, 5-0 Big 12), who began their first drive from their own 44. On the first play of the drive, senior quarterback Aidan Oliver rushed for 33 yards getting the Ironmen into Purple Raiders’ territory, to BHS’ 13. Two plays later, Oliver dashed into the end zone from BHS’ 2 yard line for a touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion run from sophomore quarterback Chase Mackey. That gave NCHS a quick 8-0 lead at 8:43 in the first quarter for what would be the only score going into the second half.

A 33 yard pass from junior quarterback Ben Wellman to senior wide receiver Ivan Smith ended in Smith dashing down the far sideline for the first points of the game for BHS (3-3 overall, 3-2 Big 12) followed by Wellman and Smith connecting on a 2-point conversion play. That tied the score at 8-all with 5:09 left in the quarter.

BHS’ ensuing kickoff, although briefly fumbled by NCHS, wound up recovered by the Ironmen, who started their next drive from their own 45. Eight plays later, Oliver would rush for his second touchdown of the night from 15 yards out followed by the senior quarterback keeping the ball and completing the 2-point conversion play solo. That had NCHS up, 16-8, going into halftime.

The Ironmen were able to advance the score further having received the second half kickoff, using a 10-play drive to get into the end zone as Oliver scored on a five yard run with eight minutes left in the third quarter. His score was followed by Millmore’s point after advancing NCHS’ lead, 23-8.

BHS’ next possession ended in a punt and the Ironmen were able to get the return to their own 42 to start their next drive. Six plays later, senior tight end Reid Watkins caught an Oliver pass from 15 yards out to put NCHS up, 30-8 with 3:07 left in the quarter, following Millmore’s extra point.

BHS’ next possession ended in a punt and began NCHS’ next possession at the Ironmen 47 after NCHS was flagged for holding. Five plays later, Oliver dashed into the end zone from five yards out, but Millmore missed the extra point. Despite that, NCHS held a 36-8 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.

BHS started their next drive from their own 24 after the ensuing kickoff but Wellman’s 76 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Eric Johnson stunned the Ironmen briefly, followed by a failed 2-point conversion try, reducing NCHS’ lead, 36-14 with nine seconds remaining in the third quarter.

NCHS’ return team fumbled BHS’ ensuing kickoff, briefly giving the Purple Raiders the ball at midfield with one second left in the quarter, but then committed a turnover of their own as NCHS sophomore defensive back Keewan Grismore intercepted Wellman’s intended pass giving the Ironmen the ball at BHS’ 20 to open the fourth quarter. Senior wide receiver Camron Jackson scored on a running play from that distance, followed by Millmore’s extra point, advancing the Ironmen’s lead, 43-14.

From there, BHS would sacrifice possession on a turnover on downs and NCHS would punt the ball away before another score. That score would come with 4:08 remaining when Wellman would connect with senior wide receiver Diontay Griffin from six yards out for a touchdown, capping a 6 play 57 yard drive. BHS’ try at a 2 point conversion after scoring was unsuccessful, but the added points cut NCHS’ lead to 43-20.

NCHS being deep in their own end zone in the closing moments of the game would help BHS achieve their last score on the night as sophomore linebacker Sam Pena would block the Ironmen’s punt and fall on it in the end zone. That would result in the final score after the Purple Raiders failed to convert a 2-point conversion.

“It seems like every game, it’s been one phase or two phases that have played well while others were lacking,” Drengwitz said. “I feel like if we can ever put all three phases of the game together, we’d be really good. But that’s why you go to practice and why you go and watch film.

Jackson rushed for 110 yards as he stepped in for an injured Jake Hileman. Hileman suffered a torn meniscus in a knee in the Ironmen’s road game at Lapeer, Mich. two weeks ago and had surgery on that knee the afternoon before this game. “We hope Hileman is healthy and we want to do right by him,” Drengwitz said. If all goes well with Hileman’s recovery, he could be back by week 9 or in time for playoffs, his coach explained.

“Our guys – they didn’t quit and they kept battling,” said BHS head coach Scott Godfrey. “We had some things fall our way – penalties and blocked punts fall our way – we put a scare into them, but I felt Normal was always in control.”

Godfrey credited NCHS with “being so strong on the offensive line both offensively and defensively. That is where we are losing some of these bigger games. We’re having a hard time winning the line of scrimmage.”

Godfrey finished by adding, “When you play these guys, you know you’re going to have your work cut out for you.”

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