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High School Highlights

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by
Steve Robinson

Returning in the fall of 2016 by popular demand


CornBelters ‘Party at the Park’ September 17th Featuring, The Chicago 6
The Normal CornBelters, presented by Illinois Corn Farmers, are excited to announce the final concert of the summer set for Saturday, September 17th at 5:00pm
“Party at the Park” will be headlined by The Chicago 6, a local Chicago band that’s comprised of 3 members from the ’85 Bears Super Bowl Championship team, including; Steve (Mongo) McMichael, Otis Wilson, and Dan Hampton.
Tickets are only $15 for adults, $10 for students with Valid ID and $5 for kids 12 and under.  Fans are encouraged to bring their blankets and non-bagged lawn/beach chairs.
The stage will be placed in center field, to allow plenty of space for families to lounge, relax and enjoy some quality time together outside before the fall and winter weather sets in.
In addition, the former Bears’ players will be available for a meet and greet autograph session. Fans can purchase the limited quantity passes for an additional $15 at the time of purchase, either over the phone or in person at the Mid-Illini Credit Union Box Office located at the Corn Crib.
Other acts include Jimmy Buffett cover band, Steve Sharp and Wake the Sheep, as well as Gas Road Riot. Gas Road Riot is a 4-piece rock n roll band that covers a wide variety of music from The Stray Cats, Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond to the Refreshments, Jack Johnson and Sublime. Gates will open at 4:00 pm with Steve Sharp and Wake the Sheep performing at 5:00 pm.



Jake Kolbe Throws Two Touchdowns In Red-White Scrimmage
It was not your typical scrimmage Saturday at Hancock Stadium, with the Illinois State offensive and defensive units working through special scenarios rather than a typical game situation.  However, the Redbirds were able to give the fans some excitement, as quarterback Jake Kolbe threw two touchdown passes to highlight the annual Red-White Scrimmage.
The redshirt sophomore signal caller finished the day 11-for-20 for 121 yards with scores to sophomore running back George Moreira and senior All-American wide receiver Anthony Warrum. The first came during the two minute drill, as Kolbe found Moreira in the middle of the defense in the red zone and gave the offense its first touchdown of the game with 20 seconds left on the clock. However, on the ensuing extra point attempt, defensive lineman Dalton Keene blocked the Sean Slattery kick and defensive back Davontae Harris scooped up the ball and returned it 90-plus yard for two points for the defense.
Kolbe’s other score was on the first-team unit’s last possession of the scrimmage. The team drove 65 yards in six plays to find the end zone on a 36-yard connection to Warrum in the corner, as he leaped over defensive back La’Darius Newbold for the touchdown. The score was set up by an 18-yard run by redshirt freshman tailback DeMarco Corbin and a 13-yard completion from Kolbe to sophomore transfer wide receiver Spencer Schnell.
The defense was staunch against the running game throughout the scrimmage, with the longest gain of the day coming on Corbin’s run and a 15-yard carry by freshman Jordan Birch. The passing game fared a bit better, with quarterbacks combining to throw for 213 yards, including a nifty 47-yard completion from freshman Malachi Broadnax to a diving Chase Pankey along the near sideline.  Schell led all receivers with four grabs, while Warrum added a pair for 44 yards with a score.
Defensively, freshman linebacker Ryan Guhl led the way with three tackles and two sacks on Broadnax late in the scrimmage.  Junior defensive end Adam Conley also tallied a trio of tackles, with one going for a two-yard loss. Matt Swaine, Steven Podkulski, Decxavier Kelly-Martin and James Graham also recorded sacks on the day, while BJ Bello and DraShane Glass each added a tackle-for-loss for the guys in white jerseys.
The scrimmage served as the culmination of fall camp, and the Redbirds will now move into preparation for the home opener Sept. 3 against Valparaiso at Hancock Stadium at 6 p.m. To order tickets, log onto Go
Redbirds.com/tickets or call the Redbird Ticket Office at (309) 438-8000.




IWU Football Has ‘Just One Thing’ In Mind As 2016 Season Begins
by Steve Robinson
When Illinois Wesleyan University’s football team takes the field for the 2016 season, opposing defenses will find a comparatively young offensive line trying to keep them from getting through to their quarterback and running backs. Opponents will also find that IWU’s squad has “Just One Thing” on their collective mind, as well.
Three specific words could be heard from every Titans player on media day Friday, Aug. 19 at Tucci Stadium: Just one thing. That one thing is to win the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title.
Last season, IWU looked to be well on their way to doing that with a 7-0 mark until coming up short against their last few foes on the schedule last season, North Central, Wheaton College, and North Park.
But with a leg injury sidelining junior first string quarterback Jack Warner, this season could start with his backup, junior Jack Donegan, to get IWU’s potential positive start underway.
As the season opens up, a preseason poll by D3football.com has Wheaton College and North Central ranked in the Top 25. Wheaton College is ranked 8th in the poll, with North Central sliding into 13th. The CCIW preseason poll has IWU ranked third behind these two foes in that order.
Lexington’s Laible Now Full-Time Linebacker: At Lexington High School, Donavan Laible was at the controls of a team as its quarterback. He also served as a defensive back in the Minutemen’s two-way system. Now a senior at IWU, he will stay on the defensive side of the ball as an outside linebacker.
“I played a good deal of linebacker in high school,” the 6 foot-1, 195 pound Laible said. “To do it in college is new territory than it was in high school. I’m getting used to play the position with the instincts needed. I’m used to reading defenses. Now, I’ve got to read offenses.
Being a former quarterback will help Laible read potential routes opposing quarterbacks call for in the passing game, but when it comes to run patterns, he admits those will be  trickier for him. His goal this season is to “find time on the field.” When he is not on the field, he will be in the classroom finishing up to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He said he wants to study for his CPA exam.
Donavan appeared under center for IWU in two games, completing 36 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns. He has 31 rushes to his credit for 108 yards, with his longest being 23 yards 
But with Wagner and Donegan poised to be IWU’s chosen quarterbacks for the foreseeable future, Eash worked with Laible to find a position where his skills could be used. “Donovan is a great kid and we wanted to find a place for him on the field,” Eash said, adding, “I think you’ll see him on the field.”
BHS Alum Stephon Rudicil Shifting Positions, Too: Bloomington High alum Stephon Rudicil, a fifth year senior, is moving in Eash’s defensive scheme, as well, from linebacker to defensive end.  In 2015, he appeared in one game making three total tackles, two of them solo.
Circle Your Calendars: IWU will have nine starters on offense and 10 on defense as the season opens at Nebraska Wesleyan on Sept. 10. IWU’s 2016 home part of the schedule begins by hosting North Central Sept. 10 at 6p.m., and Wheaton College visits for IWU Homecoming Oct. 1 at 1p.m. Elmhurst College will visit on IWU Senior Day Oct. 29 for a 1p.m. game.



White Tops Red in Annual Red and White Volleyball Scrimmage
The White team used a late comeback in the third set to top the Red team as the Illinois State volleyball team hosted its annual Red and White Scrimmage Saturday at Redbird Arena. White won the three-set match by scores of 25-18, 21-25, 23-21.
Aly Dawson, playing for the White team, led all players with 13 kills. White also got strong contributions from Elianna Lovejoy (13 digs), Ali Line (10 kills) and Jacqueline Twing (34 assists).
Red was led by Lexi Wallen and Jaelyn Keene, who tallied 10 and 11 kills, respectively. Jordan Weatherless dished out 24 assists, while Courtney Pence and Lexi Varga notched 13 digs apiece.
White won the first set Saturday as Dawson posted five of her 13 kills. Red came back in the second as Keene posted five of her 10 kills.
In the decisive third set, Red shot out to a 14-10 lead, only to see White score five unanswered points to fight off four match points and earn a match point of its own. The lead ping-ponged back and forth with each team having a chance to win the match before Dawson won it for her team with back-to-back service aces to close out the match.
The Illinois State volleyball team will begin its regular-season schedule Aug. 26-27 at the Loyola Marymount Invitational, in Los Angeles. The Redbirds home opener is set for Aug. 31, when Saint Louis visits for a 6 p.m. match at Redbird Arena





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Steve Robinson

Pekin Native Justin Fletcher Learning Plenty At 2nd Base For CornBelters

Justin Fletcher admits that, as far as finding an unaffiliated team to play for with proximity to his native Pekin, he feels very lucky. He’s been playing second base for the Normal CornBelters since signing with the club about a month ago.
Being able to play pro ball this close to home “is awesome,” Fletcher said, because he is able to do it in front of so many people he knows. The situation to join the CornBelters “wasn’t expected but I got an opportunity at a tryout and I had a good day in front of Coach Carey and he decided to sign me.” “Coach Carey” would be Normal CornBelters Manager Brooks Carey.
Fletcher’s folks, Jake and Tammy Fletcher, live in Pekin and have made it to some games as have some of his friends from his hometown. Normal is 22-year-old Fletcher’s first pro assignment straight out of graduation from Northern Illinois University. When it came to adjusting to Frontier League play, Fletcher said the first thing you notice “is that everything at this level is just a little bit better.”
“All the pitching’s a little bit better, all the hitting’s a little bit better, team defenses are a little bit better,” Fletcher said. He said that with the knowledge he came into Normal with – that of a Division I player.
Getting used to the changes a player of his experience needs to “means you have to fine tune your game a little bit,” Fletcher admitted, a process that is in progress at this very early stage of his career.
“I’ve played second base my whole life,” Fletcher said, and he said he is grateful for advice and knowledge about this level of the game he has been getting from ‘Belters shortstop Santiago Chirino, who had been playing some at second base before Fletcher arrived. Fletcher said Chirino has been giving him quick details on opposing hitters to help him tune his defensive play. 
Advice like that at this level can be invaluable for rookies, so said Fletcher, “and I listened to Santiago because he’s been here, he’s played pro ball for seven or eight years now. It’s important to listen to those guys.” Fletcher said listening to the veteran players on the team is something he does often.
One of the biggest adjustments Fletcher said he had to make was getting used to playing a longer season than he had been as a college player. The Frontier League season of 90 games is roughly one-third longer than a college baseball season. Another thing he had to adjust to once he got to the Frontier League was faster pitching. Frontier League pitchers throw around 92 miles per hour versus roughly 85 miles per hour in the collegiate ranks.
“He’s as good as any second baseman in the league,” CornBelters Manager Brooks Carey said of Fletcher. “I had to move Chirino to shortstop after some injuries this season, and I needed someone who could turn double plays. Wherever he hits is just a bonus. He’s done a good job. He’s going to be a good player down the road.”
‘Belters Present At Top Of Most Categories: If you look at the stat page for the Frontier League, you will find CornBelters players at the top of almost all of the key stats. The only one where CornBelters players aren’t immediately listed is in Earned Run Average. In fact, you can find Normal outfielder Nolan Meadows at the top of two categories. As of Monday, he was leading the league in home runs with 26, putting him nine in front of second place contender Alexi Colon of River City. As a result, he and Normal first baseman Aaron Dudley were tied at the top in runs batted in with 72.
‘Belters Visit Florence Mid-Week, Host West Division Leading Miners: Before the season ends, the CornBelters will get six chances to overtake Evansville, which is in second place in the West Division. Starting with a three-game road trip Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 23-25, Normal will try to overtake the Otters. The Otters will pay their last visit of the season to The Corn Crib for a three-game series Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 30, 31, and Sept. 1. All of those games begin at 6:35p.m.






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