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High School Highlights

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Steve Robinson

‘Mr. U-High’ Event Helps Raise Funds For Haitian Home Construction, Honors Student

As a youth, Troy Hari joined his family in traveling to Haiti to aid the less fortunate, helping construct homes. When he died as a result of an auto accident in 2003 during his junior year at University High School, his friends took up the cause and created a fundraiser called the “Mr. U-High” competition (Think male-themed pageant with some humor thrown in and some fundraising dashed throughout the program to remind folks there is a serious point to this).
University High School will have its annual “Mr. U-High” fundraiser on Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7p.m. in the school’s Stroud Auditorium. Admission to the event is $5. The event in the past has raised, annually, on average, about $2,000 since it began, explained Andrea Markert, U-High Principal. All the proceeds go to a non-profit organization called Welcome Home Haiti. That group’s website says its mission is to provide “safe, secure, and sanitary houses for the neediest families of the churches planted by Haitian Christian Ministries.”
Markert said the school’s “U-Build” student group and the U-High Student Council work together to help organize the silent auction portion of the event. The school’s students involved in U-Build went to Haiti over this past Spring break to take part in the program, building a house, she explained. Those students helped raise funds to help assure the house was built, as well, Markert said, adding that the average cost to construct a home down there was $14,500.
U-Build is a service-oriented organization within the school. Fifteen students and four chaperones flew to Haiti to participate in the construction project. Markert said it was doubtful U-Build could do such a trip annually, but possibly it could be done every other year.
Contestants participating in the “Mr. U-High” competition square off in four different categories for the title, including: Formal wear; Swimsuit competition; talent, and a question-and-answer segment. Just as with any pageant, a panel of judges determines the winner.
“The Hari family comes to these events and they talk about their trips to Haiti, and they do a little presentation in the middle of the event, as well,” Markert said. Currently, Markert explained, there are three cousins of Troy’s currently attending U-High -- two seniors and a freshman.
Those who attend the fundraising event get to see pictures of the homes, and even models constructed of the homes built to give people contributing a sense of how their money is being spent.  As a result of this event, Markert said she believes her students “walk away with empathy for people in other parts of the world and a desire to want to help others.”
That certainly sounds like it to me. I have yet to get to this event, but am hoping to. It sounds like a lot of fun while aiding a worthwhile cause.
On another U-High subject, Mike Troll, the Pioneers’ head football coach, was in a reflective mood following the Pioneers’ Illinois High School Association Class 5A 21-14 first round loss to eighth seed Morris at Hancock Stadium on Saturday. It was a hard fought contest, and obviously did not end the way Troll or his players expected it to. What’s more, the final gun ending the game meant the end of Troll’s coach-player relationship with his Senior-year players – kids he had coached since he was the Pioneers’ freshman team coach before being named head coach last spring.
Of his seniors, Troll told reporters after the game, “They’re special to me. They want to play at the next level. They will grow from this and I will grow from this. And believe it or not, this loss will make them hungry at their next level to be good college football players, which they will be.
“I look back at this year, and I never looked at practice as being work,” Troll continued. “Every day, I looked forward to practicing with those kids. A lot of coaches can’t say that.”
On another subject related to football, U-High was one of two Normalite-area school to bow out of the playoffs, with El Paso Gridley being the other. Second round action will take place this weekend and the county still has teams contending. Here’s the rundown: In Class 1A, 8th seed LeRoy visits top seed Carrollton; In Class 4A, fourth seed Canton visits eighth seed Bloomington Central Catholic; In Class 6A, second seed Normal West visits sixth seed East St. Louis; and in Class 7A, fifth seed Normal Community High School visits 13th seed Wheaton Warrenville South.

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Coming again in 2015
Comeback Falls Short, No. 6 ISU Falls To
No. 22 UNI, 42-28

In a battle between two of the top defenses in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, No. 6 Illinois State (7-1, 4-1 MVFC) fell to No. 22 Northern Iowa (5-4, 3-2 MVFC), 42-28, Saturday, November 1 at the UNI Dome.
ISU suffered its first loss of the year, after trying to become the first team in school history to start a season 8-0. Two special teams touchdowns from the Panthers ended up being the deciding factor in a game highlighted by a thrilling second half.
 On the opening play of the game, UNI fumbled on a quarterback-running back exchange, and senior defensive back Mike Banks recovered to set the Redbirds up with great field position early. On the next play, junior running back Marshaun Coprich took the ball 28 yards up the middle for the score, breaking several arm tackles to put ISU ahead, 7-0. The run put Coprich over 1000 rushing yards on the season, making him the 13th player in ISU history to surpass the mark. Later in the game, Coprich became the 11th Redbird to reach the 2,000-yard career rushing plateau.
After the early excitement, seven straight drives stalled for both teams, as only one first down was converted by each offense. Among the ISU defensive highlights in the first half was a sack by senior defensive linemen Bradon Prate and Collin Keoshian, followed by another sack by junior defensive linemen Teddy Corwin and David Perkins. The Redbirds finally got another scoring opportunity on their first drive of the second quarter, but Nick Aussieker’s 46-yard field goal attempt went wide-right.
After another ISU three-and-out, the Panthers returned a blocked punt seven yards for a score to tie the game, 7-7. Both teams combined to go 3-for-18 on third downs and amassed less than 200 total yards of offense in the first half. UNI broke the game open in the second half with two third-quarter touchdowns. A passing touchdown from Brion Carnes to Kevin Vereen, Jr. was followed by a 31-yard rushing score by David Johnson to give the Panthers the lead at 21-7.
After junior transfer quarterback Tre Roberson was intercepted, the Redbird defense came up huge when Prate tipped a Carnes pass attempt, and junior linebacker Alex Donnelly returned the pick 56 yards to set up a Coprich eight-yard touchdown to cut into the lead, 21-14. With less than ten minutes remaining and the Panthers driving the field, Corwin came up with his second career interception inside the Redbird 25-yard line, when he tipped a pass at the line-of-scrimmage and hauled the ball in while lying on his back. On the next play, Coprich broke a 76-yard touchdown run up the right sideline to tie the game again, 21-21.
Johnson took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for the game-winning touchdown. He added another rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the game. Roberson connected with senior tight end James O’Shaughnessy on a 21-yard passing touchdown to pull within 35-28 with 2:09 remaining in the game. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Roberson was intercepted and the Panthers returned it 32 yards for the final score of the game.
Coprich ran for 166 yards and scored three touchdowns on 27 carries, and also produced his eighth-consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. The Redbirds return home to take on No. 11 Youngstown State (7-2, 4-1 MVFC) Saturday, Nov. 8 at Hancock Stadium at 1 p.m.

Ironmen win 7A playoff debut  following incredible comeback, 42-34
by Tommy Lebow
Normal Community proved they belong in Class 7A in the state playoffs Saturday night by scoring 29 points in the fourth quarter to stun Plainfield North, 42-34, in Normal.
The Ironmen did nothing to stop the White Tigers offense in the first half, letting running back Quintin Hoosman run for 287 yards and two long touchdowns to give Plainfield a 28-7 lead at halftime. JD Villafuerte caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Josh Kirshenbaum and Alex Haines added the extra point PAT kick for the Ironmen.
Normal Community’s defense stiffened in the second half, allowing only 41 rushing yards from Hoosman.   Christian Wey caught a 14-yard pass for a TD in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 28-13.
NCHS’ David Boyd caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, and an improbable two-point conversion pass from Kirshenbaum to Boyd, who tipped the ball to Riley Rahuba made the score 28-21.
Plainfield North got into the end zone on the drive, but the extra point was blocked, making the score 34-21 with 3:37 left in the game.
Kirshenbaum connected with Wey on a 54-yard touchdown pass 2:48 seconds left in the game to make the score 34-28. Normal Community’s defense held strong on fourth down to give NCHS the ball with under two minutes remaining.
Kirshenbaum gave the Ironmen their first lead of the game by throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Steven Towns with 1:02 left in the game. Alex Haines kicked the extra point to make the score 35-34.
Plainfield North started to drive down the field on the next drive, but Wey intercepted a pass and returned it 64-yards for a touchdown to complete the stunning comeback.
NCHS continues their playoff run on Saturday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. when they travel to Wheaton to play Wheaton Warrenville South.

Despite perfect regular season 8th Seed Morris tops #1 U-High 21-14
by Steve Robinson
University High’s post-season opener against Morris at Hancock Stadium went from nail-biter to heart-breaker for those cheering on the Pioneers in their opening round Illinois High School Association Class 5A contest on Nov. 1. The Pioneers came from behind in the fourth quarter only to have their chances for continuing on in the playoffs dashed in the game’s last minutes, chalking up their only loss of the season to the Redskins, 21-14.
Roughly 600 fans turned out for both sides and saw 8th seed Morris (6-4) grab a fast 7-0 lead on a 14 yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Jake Walker at the opening quarter’s 4:34 mark, followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Luis Luna.
Senior running back Niles Smith scored for Class 5A top seed U-High (9-1) on a 13 yard dash at 2:35 in the second quarter, but the extra point by Pioneers senior kicker Matt Wittman was blocked by members of the Redskins defensive front line. Smith’s run capped a 7 play, 38 yard drive. Morris held the one-point lead, 7-6, going into halftime, and throughout a scoreless third quarter.
Walker put Morris up 14-6, on a 4-yard scoring run with 9:59 left in the contest, concluding an 11-play, 67 yard march, followed by another successful Luna extra point.
 U-High employed a hook-and-lateral play to tie the contest, as Phelan passed to senior wide receiver Austin Welter. Welter only took a few steps as he lateraled the ball to fellow senior running back Sam Arvik who sprinted down the near sideline into the end zone for a touchdown. A two-point conversion pass from Phelan to Welter evened the score at 14-14 with 9:48 remaining.
Morris employed a ground game toward their go-ahead score, going 80 yards on 14 plays leading to senior running back Matt Felden’s 20-yard touchdown run. Luna’s extra point led to the final score, as the Redskins’ defense kept U-High at bay until the final gun.
“People who don’t know anything about our team don’t know we have had a lot of injuries this year,” explained Morris head coach Alan Thorson after the contest. “Obviously, we go into every game thinking we can win, but we have all the respect in the world for Normal. Coach Troll does a great job with them and those kids play extremely hard. That’s a very good team they have over there.”
“We knew what Morris’ game plan was going to be and we knew what ours was, and keeping them to the small amount of points they did score was something I was happy with,” explained Pioneers head coach Mike Troll afterward. “I just think we didn’t do some things offensively that we could have done.
“We missed some reads and dropped some passes and shot ourselves in the foot a little bit,” Troll said. “Our kids got a little anxious. That’s part of playing football at this level. Morris is a good football team and I congratulate them on how they executed. They didn’t make mistakes and I hope they do well in the playoffs.

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