By Steve Robinson | October 7, 2017 - 10:53 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – It might not have been noticed until after the final gun, but Normal Community High School sped through its homecoming game against Champaign Centennial High School Friday at Ironmen Field. From the opening kickoff and including a 20-minute halftime, the entire contest lasted just an hour and 58 minutes, all of it dominated by the home team en route to a 47-0 Big 12 Conference victory.

Roughly 1,000 fans watched as each team had two possessions before NCHS (7-0, 5-0 Big 12) struck first on a 16 yard scoring run by senior running back Varshaun Dixon at 7:43 in the first quarter. But junior kicker Camron Hinman missed the extra point, leaving the Ironmen with a 6-0 start.

NCHS advanced its lead, 13-0, on a 38 yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Daylen Boddie to senior wide receiver Jalen Coleman at 3:34 in that same quarter, followed by Hinman’s first successful extra point on the night.

After the Chargers’ next possession ended in a punt, Boddie scored two plays later on a 36 yard run, followed by Hinman’s next extra point, capping a two play, 47 yard drive, putting NCHS up, 20-0, going into the second quarter.

A fumble recovery by senior defensive back Trey Heffner ended the next possession for Champaign Centennial (2-5 overall, 2-4 Big 12), and two plays later, Dixon had his second touchdown of the night, from 12 yards out, followed by Hinman’s next extra point, putting the Ironmen up, 27-0 at 11:23 in the second quarter.

The Chargers’ next possession ended in a punt, giving the Ironmen the ball on the visitors’ 40 yard line. Two plays later, Boddie dashed into the end zone for his team’s next score followed by Hinman’s extra point, giving NCHS a 34-0 lead with 7:34 until halftime.

NCHS FootballThe Chargers punted to end their next possession leading to NCHS starting its next drive at mid-field One play later, senior running back Nick Hesse ran for a 50 yard score followed by another Hinman extra point, putting NCHS up, 41-0 at the 5:50 mark. With the beginning of the second half, game officials employed Illinois High School Association’s “Mercy Rule” — as a result of the 40-point difference in the game score, game officials used a continuously running clock, stopping it only for team timeouts or injury timeouts.

NCHS opted to defer receiving the ball until the second half after winning the pregame coin flip, starting the second half quickly on a 31 yard touchdown run by junior running back Connor Lay to lead to the final score following Hinman’s missed extra point. Lay’s score topped a six play, 65 yard drive.

“Really, these guys did a tremendous job,” NCHS head coach Wes Temples said. “I thought they came out and handled themselves very well.” He added the scoring gave bench players a chance to see action – something that Temples said doesn’t happen very often. “We had our backups in before halftime, and that gave them a great opportunity.”

“We didn’t execute well,” said Champaign Centennial head coach Lekevie Johnson. “We had turnovers that didn’t help us. We didn’t tackle well. We thought we had some plays in the backfield. So, when you play this kind of team, that happens. We played well early but you have to play well for four quarters.”

By Steve Robinson | October 2, 2017 - 10:00 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a resolution allowing the Town to spend an additional $35,000 in construction costs related to the replacement of traffic signals at the intersection of Towanda and Vernon Avenues. The Town has already spent $220,000 on the project, its share of costs with the project, jointly paid for with the City of Bloomington.

The cause for the extra expense was due to needing to replace transverse contraction joints in the concrete which “were in very poor shape” according to a memo from Town Engineer Gene Brown to City Manager Mark Peterson.

That repair also let for Council members to unanimously approve a supplemental resolution to appropriate an additional $35,000 of Town Motor Fuel Tax dollars which the Town would use to pay for traffic signal improvements at the Towanda-Vernon intersection. Council members originally approved the $220,000 expenditure for this project in February.

Council Tours New Normal Fire Station #1: Prior to the meeting, Council members received a guided tour of the new Normal Fire Department’s Station #1, located at the corner of Main and Dale Streets. Fire Chief Mick Humer and two of his senior officers gave City Manager Mark Peterson, Mayor Chris Koos, and Council members a guided tour of the new facility which should begin operations sometime later this month. Once in operation, the new station will replace the existing Fire Station #1, located at the intersection of College Ave. and Blair Dr.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 18, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Sept. 27, 2017.

• A resolution to award the bid for a service truck with utility body for the Water Department to Bloomington-based Sam Leman Ford at a net cost of $37,133.47 including a trade-in allowance.

• A resolution to award the bid for a backhoe loader for the Town Water Department to Martin Equipment, Inc. at a net cost of $45,115 including a trade-in allowance.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding procedure and accept quotes totaling $69,734.58 from Dell for the purchase of computer equipment.

• A resolution to accept water treatment plant chemical bids for November 2017 through October 2018.

• A resolution accepting the base bid, Alternative 2, Alternative 4, and authorizing a contract with Decatur-based CraftMasters, Inc. for the replacement of low slope roofing systems at the Community Activity Center in the amount of $88,900.

• An ordinance adopting a revised purchasing policy manual.

By Steve Robinson | September 30, 2017 - 10:04 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

FootballNORMAL – Senior quarterback Doug Holmes connected with senior wide receiver Mark Widdel for two touchdowns to thrill University High football fans in an effort to get their homecoming celebration off to a positive start, defeating Central State Eight Conference opponent Jacksonville, 38-20, in front of roughly 1,000 fans at Hancock Stadium.

The Pioneers faced a Crimsons team which needed to resort to using a fourth-string sophomore quarterback, Wesley Ervin, and leaned heavily on senior running back Marquel White for big yardage gains throughout the night.

U-High upped its record to 2-4 both in the conference and overall with the victory, with scoring that began with a 20 yard field goal by junior kicker Nathan Clay at 7:47 of the first quarter, topping a 7 play 33 yard drive. Getting that score started thanks to Jacksonville turning over the ball on downs to complete their first possession.

Jacksonville’s next possession ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down, putting the Pioneers at their own 33 yard line to start their next drive. Holmes connected with Widdel for the first time on the night on a 56 yard scoring strike with 5:05 left in the quarter, followed by Clay’s extra point, advancing the Pioneers’ lead, 10-0.

U-High Pioneers footballJacksonville’s next possession had the Crimsons marching 80 yards in 17 plays for their first score of the night at 9:27 of the second quarter, with White gaining most of the yardage, his longest jaunt was 12 yards, and he scored from three yards out to cut U-High’s lead, 10-7, following sophomore kicker Collin Brunstein’s extra point.

Holmes connected with senior wide receiver Ty Ziebarth for a 7 yard touchdown pass at 4:20 until halftime, followed by Clay’s next extra point, to give the Pioneers a 17-7 advantage.

As a result of the coin toss before the game, the Pioneers opted to defer receiving the ball until the second half but wound up fumbling to end the third play of their opening drive, turning the ball over to the Crimsons at the U-High 39 yard line. From there, White and Ervin combined keeping the ball on the ground to score, with White entering the end zone from a yard out with 8:37 left in the third quarter. That cut the Pioneers’ lead, 17-13 when a Crimsons two-point play failed.

Holmes and U-High took to the air during their next possession toward their next score. Holmes completed 3-of-4 passes for 35 yards as the Pioneers scored at 5:23 in the third quarter with Holmes running into the end zone from nine yards out followed by Clay’s extra point, increasing U-High’s lead, 24-13.

Jacksonville’s next possession ended when Pioneers sophomore defensive back Zane Sorensen recovered a fumble and U-High began their next drive at the Crimsons’ 35 yard line. One play later, Holmes and Widdel connected for a touchdown followed by Clay’s extra point, pushing the Pioneers up, 31-13.

jacksonville crimsons football helmetJacksonville got the ensuing kickoff and could only manage, after a flag thrown against them and four downs, to get to their own 30 forcing them to punt. Starting at their own 36, U-High managed to get down field thanks to plays like a 30 yard pass from Holmes to senior wide receiver Spencer Laub highlighting the drive U-High used to score again. The drive ended with Holmes running into the end zone from 7 yards out with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Clay’s extra point put U-High up, 38-13.

From there the Crimsons used another prolonged drive which began at their own 32 to score again on the night, going 68 yards in 15 plays, concluding with White leaping over Pioneers defenders from two yards out for the touchdown, the evening’s last score, followed by Brunstein’s extra point.

“I thought our offensive line came to play today and that helped our passing game,” explained U-High head coach John Johnson. “Mark Widdel and Doug Holmes went out and played a great game. Doug beat them with his speed, too.” Johnson further credited his defense for their efforts against the Crimsons’ offense.

“My team battled to the very end,” said Jacksonville head coach Mark Grounds. “We’re fighting through some injuries, and I thought my young players made some progress. We’ll keep battling.” He also had praise for Ervin, who is the Crimsons’ fourth-string quarterback. First-string quarterback Avery Dugan is dealing with a throwing arm injury but is not healthy enough to return to that position. Doctors did, however, clear Dugan to play defensive back, which he did against the Pioneers.

By Steve Robinson | September 28, 2017 - 10:00 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – At their regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 27 at district headquarters, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board unanimously approved spending for the 2017-18 school year, a budget of over $168 million, an increase in spending of 3 percent over the previous school year. But such spending will still leave Unit 5 with a $1.2 million shortage in its education fund, even though the increase in spending will have dollars added to that fund.

Board members were made aware that Senate Bill 1947, which was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner Sept. 1, allocated awaited money from the State for the district will not make up for the $1.2 million deficit the district was anticipating for its education fund.

Marty Hickman, district business manager, told Board members the budget they were approving was unchanged from the draft version of the budget he presented to them last spring.

Unit 5 mapIn addition to the education fund being short, four other funds have shortfalls, as well. There is a $1,145,168 shortfall in the district’s Bond and Interest account; a shortage of over $3.8 million in the district’s fire prevention-life safety fund; A shortage of over $161,000 in the district tort fund; and a shortage of over $86,000 in the district retirement/Social Security fund. The deficits of those funds total over $4.9 million.

With regard to the retirement fund shortage, Hickman said the State providing Tier 2 funding could help lessen that amount. Filling in the other deficits, he said, will depend on timing issues.

A public hearing was held regarding the budget prior to its passage by the Board, at which no members of the public spoke.

Life Safety Expense At Normal Community West High School Approved: Board members unanimously approved spending $430,392 to make repairs on the 22-year-old tennis courts at Normal Community West High School. Board members were shown photos of various sections the courts, some which included deep, expanding cracks in the concrete. Of the dollar amount quoted for the repair, the actual cost estimate for the project is $358,660.

In addition to that amount, another $70,000 in contingency costs is part of the grand total. Anytime paving is involved with public safety, a public hearing is required, Joe Adelman, operations manager for the district, told Board members. No members of the public spoke at this hearing.

Inaugural “State Of The District” Event Set For Oct. 11: Unit 5 will hold a first-time event updating residents on matters pertaining to the district prior to the Board’s regularly-scheduled meeting on Oct. 11. The “State Of The District” event will be held at Normal Community High School starting at 6:30p.m. The Board will then hold its scheduled meeting afterward, beginning at 8p.m.

By Steve Robinson | September 24, 2017 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonWhen we were in high school, we knew who our core of good friends were – those folks who “had our back” as they say these days. What we probably didn’t know back then as our individual paths separated from the others as we got into young adulthood was how and where others’ paths would come back to ours as years went on.

For my University High School classmate Erin McCarney, graduating from U-High in 1979 led to the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1983, and from there going on to attend University of Houston Law School for her law degree. From there, she has been a practicing attorney specializing in personal injury trial law.

Erin has been married to Mike Lunceford for 33 years and the couple has two grown children, a son and a daughter. Erin said her being appointed the judge of Texas’ 61st civil district court in 2015 “was an incredible honor. I had been a trial lawyer for 27 years and I know my way around a courtroom. I was just honored to have the Governor of Texas choose me.” The 61st Civil Court District of Texas includes Harris County, which includes Houston.

Two years ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Erin to be a district court judge. She’s done for now on the bench, back practicing law again. Along the way, she has been recognized for her efforts and her work in the community in a number of ways: Being named one of “20 Winning Trial Lawyers” in 2011; and being named one of Texas’ top attorneys for the period from 2011-2015 by Texas Monthly magazine are among the accolades she has received.

Come Friday, at an assembly in U-High’s Ruth Stroud Auditorium, Erin will be able to add another honor to that list, one that’s likely to be of a more personal nature: She will be named to the school’s Pioneer Hall of Fame as part of the school’s homecoming activities. The ceremony is Friday morning starting at 9:30a.m.

My interview with Erin was unique: Due to her schedule and some other activities she needed to attend to before Friday, our interview was done through Facebook’s messaging tool. I started by asking her if being a lawyer was what she aspired to be back when we were in school.

“No one in my family was a lawyer, so I really didn’t know what lawyers did or if I wanted to be one,” she explained. She said her U-High days mostly centered on speech and drama, and caused her “to want to do something that dealt with public speaking and people.”

Currently off the bench, Erin is now back practicing law at a firm in Houston. She will be among three former students who will go into the Pioneer Hall of Fame Friday. Being added with her will be Lynn Thomsen, Class of 1983, and Thomas Golomb, Class of 1997.

U-High will also award its Alumni Service Award to Audrey Brust Naffziger, Class of 1945, and its Distinguished Alumnus Award to Bardwell F. White, Class of 1960. The school will also award its “Friends Of U-High Award” to former Pioneers Baseball Coach (and former neighbor two doors down from me as I was growing up) Jim Scott.

But back to Erin, with a record of accomplishment and honors she has amassed over the years in her career, I look forward to hearing her make her case, as it were, for how she feels about how far she has come having started it at U-High. It’s likely that when she finishes, those of us present will be feeling unanimous, agreeing with the case she will present us about how U-High shaped her life.