By Steve Robinson | April 18, 2021 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – A trio of University High players – senior running backs Justin Johnson and Peter Deffenbaugh, and senior wide receiver Gavin Markert proved too much for visiting Champaign Central High School Friday night as the Pioneers defeated the Maroons, 63-12, in a non-conference contest at Hancock Stadium on Illinois State University’s campus. The Maroons were a hurried substitution for the team U-High was originally scheduled in this home contest, Decatur Eisenhower High School. That school bowed out due to issues related to COVID-19.

After the Maroons punted to end its initial set of downs from the kickoff and displayed poor execution getting rid of the ball on fourth down, U-High (2-3) began its first possession at Champaign’s 28. Five plays later, Deffenbaugh’s rushing play into the end zone put his team in front, 7-0, following sophomore Declan Duley’s successful extra point at 9:23 in the first quarter.

U-High’s next possession started courtesy of an interception by Johnson in his role as defensive back, picking off a pass from Maroons junior quarterback Cody Brown. That interrupted the Maroons’ drive which began at their own 25 but put the Pioneers starting at the Maroons’ 48. Two plays later, Deffenbaugh’s 10 yard rushing touchdown at 7:22 in the quarter followed by Duley’s extra point added to the Pioneers’ lead, 14-0.

The Pioneers’ defense got into the act of scoring, too, during this contest, thanks to an interception by senior defensive back Jack Dameron. With Champaign starting a drive at their own 21, Dameron picked off Brown’s third down pass running it in for a 33 yard score at the 5:03 mark followed by Duley’s extra point, increasing U-High’s lead, 21-0.

Big 12 Conference opponent Champaign Central (0-5) ended their ensuing possession with a turnover on downs giving U-High the ball at the Maroons’ 43. Five plays later, sophomore quarterback Colin Cunningham connected with Markert for a 31 yard touchdown with 1:41 left in the quarter followed by Duley’s extra point, upping the Pioneers’ advantage, 28-0, going into the second quarter.

The ensuing set of downs for Champaign Central (0-5) resulted in a punt which put the Pioneers starting at their own 33 as the final seconds of the first quarter ticked away. Four plays later, a 27 yard pass from Cunningham to Johnson, followed by Duley’s extra point, put the Pioneers up, 35-0, at the 10:46 mark.

Defensive lineman Elon Mondy recovered a Champaign fumble interrupting a drive which started at their own 26 but ended at U-High’s 47, giving possession back to the Pioneers. Six plays later, junior running back Neil Sundaram scored from four yards out. Duley’s extra point extended U-High’s lead, 42-0, with 2:44 until halftime.

Champaign Central scored with 48 second left on a 60 yard pass from Brown to freshman receiver Braylon Thompson, but the Maroons’ 2-point conversion try failed, allowing U-High to maintain a 42-6 lead with 4:48 left in the quarter.

Each team experienced a set of downs resulting in a punt after that, and when the Pioneers got the ball back following the Maroons’ punt, they started at Champaign’s 40. One play later, Cunningham connected with Johnson again, this time for a 40 yard touchdown strike, followed by another Duley extra point, giving the Pioneers a 49-6 lead going into halftime.

Once the second half began, game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” – as a result of the 40-point plus difference in the game score, using a continuously running clock, stopping it only for timeouts taken by a team or because of an injury. The running clock began as the third quarter opened. Three plays after U-High received the second half kickoff, Markert scored his second touchdown of the contest from 25 yards out from Cunningham’s pass at 9:49 in the quarter followed by Duley’s extra point, increasing the Pioneers’ lead, 56-6.

Champaign Central scored their last points of the night on a handoff from Brown to junior running back Davis Willis for a seven yard rushing touchdown at 3:59 in the third quarter followed by a failed 2-point conversion attempt, cutting U-High’s lead, 56-12.

Just as he had started the evening scoring, Deffenbaugh closed out the Pioneers’ scoring on the night with a 37 yard rushing score, capping a 6 play, 76 yard drive followed by Duley’s extra point.

“I thought it was going to be a dogfight to be honest with you,” University High head coach John Johnson said afterward. “We came out and got up by two touchdowns and I think that broke their will a little bit. We did pretty well as a team tonight. I am very proud of our kids.”

Johnson had praise for Cunningham saying, “I remember telling reporters I thought he was going to be a good quarterback and I think he showed it tonight. The line blocked well for him a lot of times, he executed our whole offense, but he studied hard on our offense and he executed.”

“This was a team win,” Johnson said, adding praise for receivers, saying. “Neil Sundaram came in and he’s been working hard in practice and it was his time tonight.”

Prior to this contest, the team had struggled internally. But after this victory, as for the team’s complete effort, Johnson said, “They pulled the rope in the same direction all night and that really made a big difference.”

Johnson said he knew nothing about Champaign Central prior to the contest, adding, “I thought we were going to have a donnybrook here, but we played them pretty well.”

“We are a young team, so my frustrations are that I like to see my players compete ‘til the end of the game,” explained Champaign Central head coach Tim Turner, adding he saw his players do that.” He added the team has a motto of “we’ll play anybody anytime anyplace,” so the change of coming here had no effect on his players.

He said he thought his troops moved the ball “pretty well, but when you have 4 or 5 turnovers, it’s going to be difficult to score.” Champaign Central had two interceptions, two fumbles, and turned the ball over on downs to U-High twice.

The Pioneers are slated to travel to Jacksonville for a Central State Eight Conference contest Friday night.

By Steve Robinson | April 17, 2021 - 6:11 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Literature and theater made up the components presented to members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board at their regularly-scheduled meeting in Normal Community West High School’s cafeteria April 14. Board members were introduced to authors, speech team competition winners, and received an invitation to one of the district high school’s spring performances

Parkside Junior High’s Speech Team’s “Good News”: Parkside Junior High School’s Speech team took center stage for a “good news” report concerning a speech competition they participated in with six first place winners coming away with honors. Those students are: Eighth grader Faithe Streily; Seventh graders River Stokes-Dorsey and Dane Schlipfman; and sixth graders Delia Allen and Caroline Bertsche. Streily also came away with the event’s Judge’s Choice Award for Outstanding Performance.

High Schools Present “Good News” About Student Authors: Board members were introduced to a newly-published authors as a result of two students, one from Normal Community High School and one from Normal Community West High School, were introduced by their principals.

As Normal Community High School Principal Trevor Chapman introduced Annie Sun, an NCHS senior, had a book titled Igniting Snow published by China-based Hobai University Press in 2020. Igniting Snow is a collection of poetry and essays written in both English and Chinese. Chapman said Sun credited her access to comics in English teacher Jacob Wiechman’s English class and being part of German teacher Mirjam Schnabel’s class to motivate her to be able to share her writing skills in both German and English.

Normal Community West High Principal Dave Johnson introduced Thomas Dyrek, a senior, to Board members. Dyrek has just published Central Illinois Train Depots, published by South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing. Johnson said Dyrek has had an interest in trains and first wrote about them in the sixth grade. In addition to text, the book includes 127 pages of photos Dyrek himself took. He refers to the trips he has taken with his mother for these pictures “depot drives” and looks forward to writing another book on the subject in the future.

Invitation Extended To NCHS’ “High School Musical” In Public Comments: During public comments, Normal Community High School junior Ian Kuhlman invited Board members to watch the school’s spring musical, “High School Musical: The One Act Edition.” Performances can be seen Thursday-Saturday, April 22-24 at 7p.m. with a matinee on Sunday, April 25 at 2p.m. Kuhlman said the show’s cast of 50 did all six rehearsals virtually. From there, they filmed the play in March. “The cast did a remarkable job putting the production together in such a short amount of time, all while being masked and socially distant,” he told Board members.

Angela Trask, wife of Board Member Mike Trask, addressed Board members on what would be Trask’s final meeting as a Board member. He did not seek re-election after having been initially elected in 2011, and earning re-election in 2015 and again in 2019. With the couple’s two daughters present, she began her comments saying, “First of all, I want to say thank you so much to the entire board for all you do every day for all the students of Unit 5. So many times, you only hear the negative comments when, really more people ought to be here thanking you for your service.”

She also acknowledged the two other Board members, in addition to her husband who opted not to seek another term on the Board, Taunia Leffler, who is stepping away from the Board after a single term, and Meta Mickens-Baker, who has been on the Board since first being appointed in 2004 and followed that up with an election win in 2005, and re-election in 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2019.

She saved her last comments for her husband, stating to him, “You have spent countless hours at meetings and at events. You have had sleepless nights worrying about making the right decisions, not only for the students and staff, but also for this whole community.” She said she knew her husband’s proudest moments came when he got to hand their two daughters their high school diplomas. “Mike, from your teacher wife, and your two daughters, we want to say thank you. Thank you for all your years of service to Unit 5.”

Kingsley Jr. High’s “Good News”: In an era where there isn’t always good news about journalism, Kingsley Junior High School Principal Stacie France presented a video which introduced Board members to students at the school who assemble the KJ News, a student newspaper. The paper was started three years ago when a student approached language arts teacher Ashley Durdan-Levy wanting to see what interest there would be for starting it. At the time, the student asked about starting the paper so that the student “could share her writing with others.” At that time, Durdan-Levy was also a first-year teacher.

The paper is now in its third year, France told Board members, adding, “There are now two student leaders who co-edit the newspaper.” They are Layla Winn and Vibhuti Patel. In the video, Patel explained, “Every writer brings, like, something different to the newspaper. We have so much fun seeing their writing evolve, and it shows they really care about this as much as we do.”

In just three years of operation, France said, the number of writers has increased from 3 to 18. Among the writers in the video is Joanna Gonzalez, who said she likes the research aspect of doing writing because, as she explained it, “it’s not very often I get to randomly choose and go out and read a couple articles about it, but then turn those words into my own.” Also in the video is fellow KJ News writer Alyssa Thompson. She explained she “enjoys working with others who share my passion of writing.” Thompson added she likes being on the paper because “we get to choose what we want to write about and make it our own. We get to publish it in our own words as to how we want to say it so other students can read it.”

Data System Preview Presented: Board members received a presentation from Darrin Cooper, the district’s director for teaching and learning, concerning software the district is looking into which would become a replacement for student data processors currently in use. The district spends $185,920 on the system it is considering replacing. The system presented to Board members at this session to replace the current processors, called EduClimber, manufactured by a company called Illuminate Education, would cost the district $160,700. There are also on-time training and implementation costs which would cost $17,000.

Such products like EduClimber must be compliant with the State’s Student Online Personal Protection Act, or SOPPA, which goes into effect July 1. The Act requires all Illinois public school districts to provide additional guarantees to protect student data privacy by that date.

New Administrative Post To Be Added In New School Year: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle indicated to Board members the district is seeking to add a person who would become the district’s 20th administrator who would be responsible for overseeing the district’s efforts concerning diversity and inclusion. The person selected for the job would begin their duties on July 1. Finalizing a candidates list for the post will take place in about a month, according to Dr. Weikle.

By Steve Robinson | April 13, 2021 - 3:04 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – Although University High was able to keep pace with Springfield Lanphier High School during the first quarter of their Central State Eight Conference contest Friday night, the Pioneers’ defense’s not being able to contain Lions’ senior running back Tierre Butler allowed the senior running back to score twice on the night. That contributed to the end result of the Lions defeating the Pioneers, 33-20, before a small Hancock Stadium crowd.

Following a scoreless first quarter. U-High (1-3) grabbed a 3-0 lead on sophomore kicker Declan Duley’s 32 yard field goal 3 seconds into the second quarter. His points capped a five play 30 yard drive. Before that the Lions had trouble getting out of their own territory giving a field advantage to the Pioneers.

U-High increased its lead, 10-0, on a four yard score from senior running back Peter Deffenbaugh capping a 3 play 38 yard march at 7:09 in the quarter, followed by a Duley extra point.

Butler put Springfield Lanphier (2-2) on the board at 4:46 in the quarter on a 1 yard run capping a 6 play 69 yard drive followed by an extra point by sophomore kicker Alex Suprenant cutting the Pioneers’ lead, 10-7.

U-High were able to march into Lions territory on their next possession until they got to the Lions’ 30. From there, a pair of incomplete passes and a short yardage gain forced Duley to kick a 31 yard field goal for the Pioneers to increase their lead to 13-7 with 2:47 left in the half.

A second Butler touchdown from 7 yards out capped a 5 play 54 yard drive for the Lions from the ensuing kickoff followed by Suprenant’s extra point, putting Springfield Lanphier in front for the first time, 14-13, with 2:47 left, putting the Lions in front at the half.

An 80 yard pass from Lions senior quarterback Jacob Galassi to senior wide receiver A’Tejon Lee would help push the visitor’s lead, 21-13, following another Suprenant extra point. Lee’s score would be the only play in the drive toward the score at the 4:30 mark in the third quarter.

Each side would give up the ball on downs for their next possession, but Springfield Lanphier would score a final time at 4:17 in the fourth quarter as Galassi would scramble around Pioneers defenders for a 10 yard touchdown but Suprenant missed the extra point, but the Lions increased the lead, 27-13.

Senior running back Lamar Manning would a short yardage touchdown with 2:52 left in the game, but the extra point try failed, giving Springfield Lanphier a 33-13 lead.

Pioneers senior wide receiver Gavin Markert would catch a 28-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Collin Cunningham for a touchdown with 7 seconds left in the game, followed by Duley’s extra point leading to the final score.

“Up front, we knew their running game was good and we respect them for that,” explained Springfield Lanphier head coach Don Goff after the game, giving a nod to the Pioneers’ offense. ”But we felt we could get the ball to our athletes out in open spaces. We haven’t had a quarterback who likes to throw the ball as much as he does, and so we got the ball out in the parimeter and our kids made some great plays.”

Goff had praise for the Pioneers’ effort on the night, saying, “They are well coached and they play hard. They’re well coached.”

“We made this team look like a hundred bucks in this game,” Pioneers head coach John Johnson said of Springfield Lanphier in comparison to his squad. “We made too many mistakes. We should have won the game, but we didn’t. We made too many mistakes and we’re too divided.”

Champaign Central Visits Hancock Stadium Friday: The Pioneers will be home Friday night but Champaign Central from the Big 12 Conference will be the opponent rather than Decatur Eisenhower as noted on some schedules. Kickoff is slated for 7p.m. at Hancock Stadium.

NORMAL – A vigorous and sometimes contentious campaign on matters such as use of the State Open Meetings Act at Normal Town Council meetings and continuing work on Town streets ended Tuesday night with Mayor Chris Koos and three incumbent Town Council members retaining their seats for another four-year term.

Normal Mayoral Race: When 100 percent of votes were reported counted by the McLean County Clerk’s office, the numbers showed for a second time that Koos had defeated challenged Marc Tiritilli to earn a fifth term at Normal City Hall. A total of 4,396 ballots, or 52.31 percent, were counted for Koos versus 4,008 ballots, or 43.69 percent for Tiritilli. Four years ago, a recount the day after the election showed Koos had narrowly won his current term by just seven votes.

“We did the right thing, we have done everything we can do, and we ran a very, very good campaign,” Koos said as he waited for the final results.

Tiritilli ran on a platform which included what he saw was further opening of public access to government in the form of using public comment policy during Town Council meetings. He had explained he believed under Koos, that policy had become too restrictive as to what subjects citizens could bring up at Normal Town Council sessions.

Town Council Candidates Race: Three incumbent Normal Town Council candidates – Kevin McCarthy, Chemberly Cummings, and Scott Preston — faced six challengers in order to hold on to their seats in Tuesday’s election, accomplishing that task. McCarthy and Preston will each begin third terms on the Council dais and Cummings was elected to a second term.

McCarthy was the top ballot recipient, with 3,712 votes or 17.07 percent of the vote, while Cummings and Preston earned identical voting numbers, each of them with 2,941 votes, or 13.53 percent. They were followed by David Paul Blumenshine placing third with 2,803 votes or 12.89 percent, Albert Zimmerman, Chair of Normal Planning Commission placing fourth with 2,639 votes or 12.14 percent; Steve Harsh placing fifth with 1,949 votes or 8.97 percent; Karl Sila placing sixth with 1,867 votes or 8.59 percent; Brad McMillan placing seventh with 1,743 votes or 8.02 percent; and Donna M. Toney placing eighth with 1,145 votes or 5.27 percent.

Coleman, DeHaai, Gozur Win Unit 5 School Board Race: Three new faces will join Normal-based Unit 5 School Board later this month as a result of Tuesday’s election. A total of six candidate ran for open seats on the Board with Kentrica Coleman receiving the most ballots, 6,261, or 21.1 percent of the vote. She was followed and will be joined on the Board by Jeremy DeHaai who received 5,370 votes or 18.1 percent of the vote, and Stan E. Gozur who received 5,089 votes or 17.1 percent of the vote.

Of the other three candidates in the race, Ericka Ralston finished fourth with 4,506 votes or 15.2 percent of the vote, Janelle Czapar finished fifth with 4,422 votes or 14.9 percent, and Gavin Cunningham placed sixth with 4,084 votes or 13.7 percent.

Normal Township Supervisor Race: Democrat Sarah Grammer, the current Normal Township Supervisor, faced write-in Republican challenger Amy Conklin in their race. Despite their being 1,392 write-in votes tallied, Conklin didn’t receive any of them.

Normal Township Clerk Race: Democrat Pat Turner won the race to be the next Normal Township Clerk when she defeated Republican challenger Judy Hanks. Turner garnered 4,112 votes or 51.04 percent of the vote to 3,944 votes or 48.96 percent for Hanks.

Normal Township Trustee Race: Democrat Sally Pyne was the top voter winner among seven declared candidates and one write-in candidate when ballots were totaled for serving as Normal Township Trustees. Pyne garnered 4,293 votes or 15.43 percent of the vote. Democrat Arlene Hosea came in second with 3,917 votes or 14.08 percent. Republican Floyd Aper placed third with 3,742 votes or 13.45 percent, and Republican Art Rodriguez placed fourth with 3,736 votes or 13.43 percent. Republican Carl Haney placed fifth with 3,610 votes or 12.98 percent, Democrat Dayna Schickedanz placed sixth with 3,550 votes or 12.76 percent, and Democrat Mary Wuhrmann placed seventh with 3,491 votes or 12.55 percent. A write-in candidate, Ray Ropp, received no votes.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a resolution to award the bid for Oakdale, Ruston, Grove, and Margaret Sts. Water main replacement project to Gibson City, Ill.-based SNC Construction, Inc. at a total cost of $610,764.92 plus a potential $7,500 bonus for early completion. The meeting was held Monday and remotely as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Prior to the Council vote, Normal resident Jerry Logan, saying he was representing the membership of Local 99 of Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, told Council members that specific union had been laying water main in the Town for 74 years, and said he and his fellow union members were concerned about a water main replacement project being awarded to a company not from the area. “What I would ask of the Committee is to consider tabling this until we get more research on this.” He said awarding the project to out-of-town contractor takes dollars away from the local area for such a project.

Amended Special Use Permit Approved For Local Business: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance granting a special use permit giving the owners of Beyond Hello, a medical cannabis sales business at 501 W. Northtown Rd. approval to expand its parking lot from 20 spaces it started with when the business opened to 40 spaces. In their report to Council members, Town staff indicated support for approving the permit because the proposed lot only occupied one-third of the property.

When the request went before the Town Zoning Board of Appeals on March 18, only the applicant addressed the Board, which was followed by unanimous approval vote by Board members.

Uptown Outdoor Dining Is Back: Among miscellaneous items Council members brought up were that Uptown outdoor dining returned on April 1, according to Council Member Scott Preston. He said that will continue through summer into the fall.

Lauren Lurkins Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board: During the session, it was announced Lauren Lurkins, director for environmental policy for Illinois Farm Bureau, has been appointed to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board. Lurkins and her family have been Museum members since 2013. Lurkins is a graduate of Saint Louis University and Southern Illinois University School of Law. Lurkins replaces Gina Mandros who had to leave the Board prior to completing her last year serving on it. Lurkins’ term expires June 30, 2022.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting of March 15, 2021.

• Approval of the minutes of the special Council meeting of March 29, 2021

• Report and receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 31, 2021.

• A resolution reapproving the third preliminary subdivision plan for The Vineyards subdivision (southeast corner of Airport Rd. and Raab Rd.).

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Peoria-based Hoerr Construction, Inc. for the 2021 sanitary sewer lining contract in the amount of $963,472.80 and authorizing an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Mitchell, Ill.-based Erb Turf Equipment, Inc, for Ironwood Golf Course reel and bedknife grinders in the amount of $40,195.