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High School Highlights
This column is about loyalty – regardless of the weather conditions. This high school football season has seemed like one of the rainiest we’ve had over the years. It may match 2012 when leftovers from Hurricane Isaac poured through for a couple weekends during the season.
When Normal Community High School and Unit 5 rival Normal Community West High School played a few weeks ago, the game got interrupted by lightning with 3:03 left in the fourth quarter forcing the clearing of the stands at Ironmen Field. That break in the action gave me a chance to witness the bonding that went on between friends and their determination to see the game through to its conclusion – because it was all part of the high school experience.
For Katie Starkey, a senior at NCHS, getting the full high school experience at an Ironmen football game with the games remaining on the schedule was important to her and her friends. She and her friend, Hannah Johnson, an NCHS junior, attend games with the goal of seeing them through to the final horn – even if that includes needing to stand in the stadium entryway for an all clear to be given from lightning for the game to resume.
Starkey said she loves football. “I have a lot of friends out there and I want to support them,” she said. That support gets extra attention from her for her boyfriend, Ironmen senior defensive back Ryan Sparks.
But in addition to the loyalty for her fella, Starkey gave me another reason I though you should read about. “I stay because I’m loyal to my school, I love Friday night football games, and I look forward to them every week, so I want to see them through to the end.” Starkey, Johnson and their friends opted, despite being damp and chilled by the weather conditions of the game to stay for the last three minutes once the game got back underway. It was an enlightening and positive development, I thought.
Johnson was at the game to support boyfriend Ethan Barnett, a lineman for the Normal West Wildcats. There were five girls in the group Starkey and Johnson were hanging with when I met them. “The five of us who came talked about whether we should stay to support our boys because we knew they were working hard,” Johnson said.
“I think we’re happy about staying because we’re having a good time and we’re bonding,” Starkey said about the group of five girls who hung out together despite the conditions. The other girls in the group included Grace Farney and Marissa Houseman, both NCHS seniors, and Kenzie Arens, an NCHS junior.
Those girls wanted to enjoy the last hurrah of a “Chili Bowl” game of their high school days. They knew there would be sunnier days ahead. But their loyalty – to their school, to each other, and to their fellas under such conditions – is commendable. It said something about them not just as fans, but as people.
The rain proved a positive for Starkey and her friends. But Normal West junior Kayla Johnson has noted it has rained for every Wildcats home game this season. Johnson, a member of the West Volleyball team, was with teammates Tyler Stark and Aniya Monla, both freshmen, watching the Wildcats take on intercity rival Bloomington High School in another soggy affair last Friday.
“The rain kinda gets annoying after a while,” said Monla. “Being our homecoming game, we all want to watch it. But with the rain, it gets uncomfortable.”
“The rain was a bit of a bummer your freshmen year when you want to experience it all,” Stark said. Cheer up, ladies. There is always the prospect of your next three years’ worth of homecoming games at Wildcat Field could be dry events.
The rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain, but these girls have been left with the impression the precip stopped here to visit while on its way there. There are three regular season contests left, as well as the possibility of playoffs which begin before Halloween. Here’s hoping we will all keep the spirit shown by these girls – enthusiasm and hope for drier days – while the season is still in progress for our area teams
Inductees Prepare for Entrance Into ISU Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame
The Illinois State Athletics Department will honor a group of four deserving individuals with induction into its Percy Family Athletics Hall of Fame during Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 7-8, 2016.
The 2016 class of the ISU Percy Family Athletics Hall of Fame includes former student-athletes Jared Dufault (baseball), Krystal Featherston (swimming & diving) and Lori Vogel (softball), as well as Neal MacDonald, who will be honored with the Campbell “Stretch” Miller Award.
The official induction ceremony will take place Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center on the Illinois State University campus beginning at 8 a.m. The three inductees and the Stretch Miller Award winner will also be recognized during halftime of the Illinois State-Youngstown State football game later that day. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
The class is the 44th in the history of the ISU Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame, which began with the charter class in 1972. Tickets for the Hall of Fame ceremony are $25 per person and can be purchased through the Weisbecker Scholarship Fund office by calling (309) 438-3639.
Four-year letterwinner and two-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection as an outfielder (2000-01) … the first player in Illinois State history to lead the team in triples for four seasons in a row … finished career with a .346 batting average in 740 at-bats … collected 256 hits, including 39 doubles, 19 triples and 23 home runs during four-year career and drove in 141 runs while stealing 18 bases … ranks as the ISU all-time triples leader with 19, ranks fourth in career hits (256) and fifth in career runs (169) and on-base percentage (.419) … owns two of the top four single-season hit totals in program history (79 in 2000 and 80 in 2001) … earned American Baseball Coaches Association All-Midwest Region Second-Team honors following final season in 2001 … led the MVC that season with a .394 batting average, thanks to 24 multi-hit games and a 20-game hitting streak … ranked No. 11 nationally in triples per game in 2001 … started all 55 games played in as a junior and hit .351, with 79 hits including 15 doubles, three triples and two home runs while driving in 36 base runners … named an All-MVC Honorable Mention selection as a sophomore after driving in a career-high 49 runs while hitting .328 and belting 11 home runs, also a career-best … named MVP of the Clark C. Griffith Collegiate Baseball League and a Baseball America Summer All-American in 1999.
Member of the Missouri Valley Conference All-Centennial Team … named the 2004-05 Jill Hutchison Female Athlete of the Year at Illinois State … was the first and one of only two divers in MVC history to be named Diver of the Year three times (2003-05) … collected six MVC individual diving titles, winning three consecutive each on the 1-meter and 3-meter boards from 2003-05 … four-time MVC All-Conference selection and two-time MVC Scholar-Athlete pick (2004-05) … two-time qualifier for the NCAA Zone C qualifying meet (2002-03) … named MVC Diver of the Week seven times during senior season on way to being named MVC Diver of the Year for the third-straight time … as a junior, won MVC Diver of the Week honors four times, before winning MVC titles on both the 1 and 3-meter boards at the MVC Championships … posted wins on both boards as sophomore at the MVC Championships, scoring a personal-best 474.45 (11 dives) … finished fourth at the MVC Championships on the one-meter and second on the three-meter board as a freshman to earn All-MVC honors for the first time.
Four-year letterwinner and two-time All-Gateway Conference First-Team selection (1987-88) … named Second-Team All-Region as a junior in 1987, after leading the Gateway Conference with a 0.65 ERA and 24 wins … owns a career record of 69-35 in 733.1 innings pitched with 219 strikeouts to just 82 walks … holds the Illinois State career record for fewest walks allowed per seven innings (0.78), ranks second in career wins (69) and innings pitched (733.1) and sixth in career ERA (1.00) … set single-season records for fewest walks per seven innings (0.43 in 1988) and innings pitched (269.0 in 1987) … ranks fifth on the single-season wins list (24 in 1987) and owns two of the top 10 single-season ERA marks in school history (0.65 in 1987 and 0.75 in 1986) … also made 263 plate appearances in her career, with 52 hits, seven doubles and 19 runs batted in.
Stretch Miller Award Winner
A valued member of the Illinois State Athletics statistics crew for nearly 20 years … has volunteered time to help stat more than 600 ISU contests and helped teach nearly 100 staff members the Stat Crew system for various sports … first began typing volleyball stats in the fall of 1997 … began working with the women’s basketball stat crew the follow year in 1998 and worked with both sports before moving to the west coast in 2003 … while in Colorado, helped with the women’s basketball program at Northern Colorado … returned to Bloomington-Normal in 2005 and immediately resumed typing responsibilities for the volleyball and women’s basketball programs and continues in that role … took over statistics typing responsibilities for the men’s basketball team in 2014 and continues to hold that post … in addition to being a crucial member of the Illinois State staff, has also worked on the official stat crew for several Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball tournaments in St. Louis and was a member of the official stat crew for the inaugural MVC Women’s Basketball Championship in Moline in 2016 … has also worked with the IHSA since 2012, scoring the girls’ volleyball championship hosted annually at Redbird Arena.
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Redbird Football Report
Redbirds Unable to Recover in 31-10 Loss to No. 1 North Dakota State
After taking a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, Illinois State looked ready to give No. 1-ranked North Dakota State a hard time on its home field, however the Bison (4-0, 1-0 MVFC) reeled off 24 unanswered points to defeat the No. 18-ranked Redbirds (2-3, 0-2 MVFC) by a score of 31-10 in front of a crowd of 18,907 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome Saturday afternoon.
The Redbird offense favored the passing game out-throwing the Bison 303-256. Jake Kolbe went 23-for-35, throwing for 285 yards that was highlighted by a 41-yard completion and 18-yard touchdown reception to junior wide receiver Anthony Fowler. Fowler shattered his previous career best in receiving yards topping out at 119 yards on a career-best six receptions.
The ISU defense picked up three tackles-for-losses, two pass breakups and one forced fumble. Alec Kocour led the team in tackles, tying his career best of 14 total tackles, with seven of those being solo stops. Alejandro Rivera also stood tall on defense, recording 11 tackles, while Dalton Keene was not far behind with 10 tackles and one tackle-for-loss.
Illinois State took an early 3-0 lead on its second drive of the game. The 10-play 58-yard drive rushes of 15 and 18 yards on back-to-back runs by George Moreira that put the ball inside the red zone at the NDSU 10 yard-line. However, the Bison defense tightened up and forced Sean Slattery to kick a 23-yard field goal to give the Redbirds the three-point lead.
The Bison wasted little time answering the Redbird score, putting together a methodical 12-play, 78-yard drive that was capped off by a 31-yard run by receiver Darrius Shepherd to take a 7-3 lead with 1:14 left to play in the first quarter.
Kolbe and the Redbirds punched right back with an eight-play, 81 yard drive of their own to regain the lead at 10-7 early in the second quarter. A 14-yard completions to Christian Gibbs and a 13-yard strike to Anthony Warrum put the ball near midfield for the Redbirds. Kolbe then found Warrum down the sideline for 38 yards and then connected with Fowler, who was wide open in the back corner of the end zone, for the 18-yard score to give the Redbirds the lead right back.
The rollercoaster ride continued, as the Bison needed just one play on their ensuing drive to get the lead right back. Easton Stick connected with R.J. Urzendowski for a 65-yard score to take the lead back at 14-10. The Redbirds threatened on their next drive, getting all the way to the Bison five yard line before Kolbe was sacked and fumbled to give the ball back to NDSU.
The Bison then drove 92 yards on four plays to extend the lead to 21-10 on a 38-yard pass from Stick to Lance Dunn and NDSU added a late score with 27 seconds remaining in the half on a 35-yard pass from Stick to Jenson to widen the advantage to 28-10 at the break.
A relatively calm third by both teams ended with NDSU kicker Cam Pedersen connecting on a 47-yard field goal to widen the lead to 31-10 with 39 seconds left in the third quarter, as the game moved into the final quarter of play. The ISU defense held NDSU to zero points in the fourth quarter; however, the offense was unable to score, as the Bison walked away with the win to hand.
Illinois State returns home to begin a two-game homestand against Youngstown State next Saturday on Homecoming. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m., with the game set to be broadcast on CSN Chicago and ESPN3.
Normal West Prevails To A Soggy 41-36 Homecoming Win Over BHS
by Steve Robinson
Driving rain passed through the area as Normal Community West High School tried to get back on track against Big 12 Conference rival Bloomington High at Wildcat Field Sept. 30, but both sides seemed undeterred in their efforts to improve on their season’s record in the process. Despite the soggy conditions, Normal West prevailed, winning their homecoming contest, 41-36, as roughly 800 fans divided equally in terms of their loyalties, watched.
Junior running back Genesis Forrest scored the game’s only first quarter touchdown for Normal West (2-4, 2-3 Big 12) at the 6:39 mark, taking in a 16 yard pass from senior quarterback Peyton Dillingham, putting the Wildcats on the scoreboard first, 7-0, following junior kicker Matt Lage’s extra point.
After West defenders prevented a Purple Raiders drive from getting beyond their own 6 yard line, Forrest extended his team’s lead taking a BHS punt 69 yards into the end zone at the 9:34 mark in the second quarter to give West a 14-0 following Lage’s next extra point. On the next series for BHS, the Purple Raiders scored as senior running back Domineik Criddell ran into the end zone from 8 yards out, followed by a successful point after by junior quarterback and kicker Colton Sandage, slicing West’s lead in half, 14-7, at the quarter’s 8:59 mark.
Normal West’s next series of downs ended in a sack by BHS defenders of Dillingham at West’s 28 yard line. Three plays later, Sandage connected with senior wide receiver Avery Lyons from 8 yards out for another touchdown, tying the game at 14-14 following Sandage’s next extra point.
A 23 yard touchdown pass from Sandage to Criddell pushed the Purple Raiders into the lead for the first time in the contest at 3:36 in the quarter, 20-14, but Sandage missed the extra point. It was a very brief lead though as, on the ensuing kickoff, Wildcats sophomore running back Armani Forrest took the ensuing kickoff 88 yards, dashing through defenders’ blocks and tackles, reaching the end zone, followed by Lage’s extra point to give West a 21-20 lead going into halftime.
West won the pregame coin flip and deferred to receive the ball to start the second half, but a fumble gave BHS the ball, allowing them to score two plays into the third quarter thanks to a 15 yard touchdown run by Criddell, followed by Sandage’s extra point putting the Purple Raiders up, 27-21 at the quarter’s 10:59 mark.
Each team had one series of downs that resulted in a punt before the next score came courtesy of Genesis Forrest who took West into the end zone on an 80 yard dash, followed by another Lage point after, allowing the Wildcats a one-point lead, 28-27, with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
West closed out the third quarter scoring at the 2:24 mark as junior wide receiver Greg Thomas’ 24 yard touchdown pass from Dillingham pushed West in front, 34-27, but Lage missed the extra point.
BHS knotted the game at 34-all with a 12 yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Sam Warren with 6:41 left in the contest, followed by another Sandage extra point. But West next scoring opportunity came at the end of the next series of downs finishing with a 1 yd. touchdown run from junior running back Malik Tucker at the 5:37 mark, giving West a 41-34 lead. BHS tried one more time to advance the ball but had to punt, forcing West to work deep in their own territory. With time and space to work going against the Wildcats, BHS’ defensive unit members were able to force Dillingham out of the back of their own end zone scoring a safety resulting in the final score.
Bloomington High 0 20 7 9 36
Normal West 7 14 13 7 41
W – G. Forrest 15 yd. pass from Dillingham (Lage kick).
W – G. Forrest 68 yd. punt return (Lage kick).
B – Criddell 8 yd. run (Sandage kick).
B – Lyons 14 yd. pass from Sandage (Sandage kick).
B – Criddell 23 yd. pass from Sandage (Missed PAT).
W – A. Forrest 88 yd. punt return (Lage kick).
B – Sandage 4 yd. run (Sandage kick).
W -- G. Forrest 80 yd. punt return (Lage kick).
W – Thomas 23 yd. pass from Dillingham (Missed PAT).
B – Warren 12 yd. pass from Sandage (Sandage kick).
W – Tucker 1 yd. run (Lage kick).
B – Safety (West ran out of end zone).
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