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High School Highlights

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by
Steve Robinson

Mounce Brothers’ Last High School Golf Event Brings Family, Memories

The way I understand it, Golf is advertised as a game that allows folks to take their bag of clubs, join a few friends and spend a relaxing period while taking up the challenge of getting a lower score than your opponent. Emotion, sometimes, will enter into the picture as the result of a bad tee shot or watching a putt rim a cup on a green, but for the most part, the point is for participants to relax. Emotion is not supposed to enter into the process, either for the golfer or any spectators.
 However, at the Illinois High School Association Class 1A State Golf Tournament held at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington last weekend, that may not have been possible for one of the families watching their sons play golf in their high school years for the last time. For Jim and Kerry Mounce and their extended family watching their twin sons, Michael and Branden, play their last match before going off to college this fall, it had to be an emotional moment. The fact that his sons led the charge to help El Paso Gridley High School capture a state title for the second straight year almost heightens that emotion.
Jim Mounce called the Tournament’s end – the end of his boys’ playing together for now – “bittersweet.” “They’ve played together the last four years, and it’s just kind of bittersweet to see them finish it off the way they did,” Jim Mounce said. “Individually, they probably wish they could have finished a little better than they did, but we couldn’t be more proud of them both.”
As individuals, Michael Mounce finished both rounds one and two with a 2-over-par 74 each day, while Branden Mounce finished day one with a par 72 and day two going 4-over-par 76 to arrive at the same total of 148. As a result, the Mounce brothers shared individual third place honors overall for the tournament.
At the conclusion of the two-day tourney on Oct. 18, it was determined both boys lead the effort to helping the Titans earn their second straight first place finish with a total score of 619 on the 72-par course. Winnetka, Ill.-based North Shore County Day High School finished second with a two-day score of 629, while Nashville finished third with a total of 652. Spectators could find EPG players more readily on the course thanks to the team’s recent tradition of wearing white “bucket”-style hats on the course.
Jim Mounce said the boys were “9 or 10” when they began to enter competitive events, starting with the annual Country Classic Tournament. “They both excelled at it,” Jim Mounce said. “We knew we had something special there. We just support them. That’s all we can do.”
The boys’ drive to go into battle on the links began with the pair getting interested in the game at age 4 or 5, according to Lavonne Wade, the boys’ grandmother and Jim’s mother.
“They were very into golf,” Wade recalled. Wade and a friend sat in lawn chairs where they could get a good look at both the first tee and the 18th green, as carts are prohibited for spectators at IHSA golf events. “It’s so awesome to see how the boys have improved to now from their younger days,” Wade added.
Sydney Hall, Branden Mounce’s girlfriend, has watched him practice in the summer, walking El Paso Country Club with him and has traveled to see him play in tournaments. Her brother, Ian, was on EPG’s Golf Team with the Mounce Brothers two years ago, as a senior. “It’s just really exciting seeing how he’s grown his golf game, especially this year,” Hall said of Branden. “He’s gotten a lot better toward the end. It’s nice to see him make the shots he needs to and watch him get better.” 
While the Mounce family’s chapter titled competing in high school golf was concluding, a chapter was opening for Kevin Greene, the only freshman on this year’s Titans six-man team. Kevin’s father, Larry, found himself in the same area as Wade, waiting and hoping. The difference was, Greene was able to walk the course with the gallery, something he said was tough for someone used to using a cart.
Watching a match, Larry Greene said, “is a lot harder than playing. That’s because Kevin can hit a shot, and it’s something you can’t do anything about if the ball doesn’t go where you planned. No matter how much you want to help, you can’t.”
 On the par-72 course, Kevin’s debut round on Friday ended in a 24-over-par 96 followed by Saturday’s 14-over-par 86 for a two-round total of 182. “This was probably the best match of the year, the most fun match of the year,” Kevin stated. “It was the best part of the year.” He said he had butterflies more so prior to round one than he did before round two.
Kevin said many of the things his coaches and his dad had told him during the season stuck in his head during both rounds. “I just stayed calm and shoot what I normally shoot,” he said quietly. He said he would like to earn another few trips to State again during his high school years.
Right now, because the Mounce brothers led the way at last weekend’s State Tourney, Kevin and his teammates are defending champions in Class 1A. Should they do well again next season, they’ll be back to mount a title defense. With their collective determination and enthusiastic supporters, here’s hoping Kevin and his teammates, clubs and bucket hats at the ready, get that chance.
Shifting to another Titans sport, this is the last weekend of the high school football regular season and 7-1 EPG will be on the road to 3-5 Heyworth. Pairings for the playoffs will be announced on Saturday.




ISU Men’s Basketball TV Schedule Released
At least 18 Illinois State men’s basketball games will be televised or streamed live via national network, regional network or ESPN3 coverage during the 2014-15 season, as announced by ISU and the Missouri Valley Conference Wednesday. View the complete Illinois State men’s basketball schedule, with TV listings, here.
Select games will be broadcast via regional and national television networks, such as ESPN or ESPN2, ESPNU, Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Fox Sports Midwest, while others will be streamed live via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN application.
If Illinois State wins its Nov. 21 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam opener versus Weber State, the Redbirds will be guaranteed live national coverage from CBS Sports Network Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, while playing in the championship bracket. All consolation bracket games will be streamed live via ParadiseJam.com.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago Plus will then televise Illinois State’s Dec. 2 home meeting with VCU as part of Illinois State’s institutional package. ISU’s Dec. 14 contest at DePaul is scheduled to air nationally on Fox Sports 1.
The Redbirds’ New Year’s Eve league-opener versus Indiana State can be seen on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and ESPN3 via the WatchESPN application. Along with ESPN3 coverage, the Jan. 4 matchup at Wichita State and the Jan. 11 Missouri State road contest could be selected for an ESPNU telecast at a later date. Additionally, the Jan. 7 Drake at Illinois State game will be streamed live on ESPN3.
Illinois State’s institutional package will televise the Jan. 17 home game versus Bradley on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and ESPN3. Similar to the Jan. 4 and Jan. 11 matchups, ISU’s Jan. 25 game versus Northern Iowa will be streamed on ESPN3 and could also be chosen for an ESPNU broadcast. The Jan. 28 home contest against Missouri State can be seen on ESPN3.
MVC TV will air three Illinois State contests, including Jan. 31 at Loyola, Feb. 7 at Southern Illinois and Feb. 18 at Bradley, and all three will be shown on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Fox Sports Midwest. The Redbirds’ Feb. 3 and Feb. 11 games, versus Evansville and at Northern Iowa, respectively, will be streamed via ESPN3. ISU’s Feb. 14 home game versus Wichita State is scheduled to air nationally on either ESPN or ESPN2.
The Redbirds’ institutional package will then show the home Loyola game, Feb. 21, on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and ESPN3. ISU’s final home contest, Feb. 25 versus Southern Illinois, is scheduled to air on ESPN3, and Illinois State’s Feb. 28 regular-season finale at Evansville is designated as a wildcard game, meaning it could be selected for a broadcast later in the season.
The men’s basketball MVC Tournament opening rounds, quarterfinals and semifinals will also air on MVC TV, and the March 8 title game can once again be watched on CBS.
Kurt Pegler and Bob Morris will provide play-by-play and analysis, respectively, for ISU’s institutional telecasts, which will once again be produced by Niles Media Group.



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No. 9 Redbirds erases 21 point deficit, defeats Western Illinois 37-34
For the second week in a row, senior placekicker Nick Aussieker nailed a game-winning field goal, as No. 9 Illinois State (6-0, 3-0 MVFC) erased a 21-point second-half deficit to come from behind for a 37-34 win at Western Illinois (3-5, 1-3 MVFC) in front of 4,641 fans Saturday, October 18 at Hanson Field.
 ISU improved to 6-0 to start the season for the first time since 1967 and secured their fifth winning campaign in six seasons under the leadership of head coach Brock Spack.  After starting the first half with three costly turnovers, junior transfer quarterback Tre Roberson was magnificent in the second half and finished the game with 256 yards passing and three touchdowns, to go with 81 yards and score on the ground.  Walter Payton Award Watch List member Marshaun Coprich recorded his sixth-consecutive 100-plus yard rushing effort to start the season, finishing with 114 yards on 19 carries with a 69-yard touchdown run.
On the first play from scrimmage, Roberson was intercepted by Luke Venegoni, and WIU took over deep in Redbird territory at the 28-yard line.  The defense held however, and limited the Leathernecks to a 25-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead two and a half minutes into the game.  The Redbirds answered immediately, as Coprich took the carry on the second play from scrimmage 69 yards for a touchdown.  Nick Aussieker missed the extra point, however, and ISU’s lead stayed at 6-3 with 12:36 left in the first quarter.
The Leathernecks came right back and took the lead at 10-6 on the next drive on a 12-yard touchdown run by J.C. Baker.  Illinois State had a great opportunity to regain the lead on the next drive, but a Roberson pass sailed over the head of Cameron Meredith in the end zone and the ball was picked off by David McDaniel for the touchback.  The Leathernecks added another score on a Trenton Norvell pass to Lance Lenoir for 29 yards in the second quarter to extend the lead to 17-6 with 11:36 left in the half.
WIU got the ball back on the next drive after a Roberson fumble, his third turnover of the half, and Devon Moore capitalized with a two-yard touchdown run to widen the Leathernecks’ lead to 24-6 with 8:24 left in the second quarter.  The Redbirds offense struggled the rest of the way and the Redbirds headed to the locker room down by 18 points.  Another field goal by Nathan Knuffman from 30 yards out with 5:28 left in the third quarter widened the WIU lead to 27-6, before the Redbirds answered with a touchdown on the next drive to cut the lead to two scores.  A 51-yard completion from Roberson to James O’Shaughnessy set up the 10-yard touchdown throw to O’Shaughnessy three plays later cut the score deficit to 27-13 with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
A quick three-and-out by the Leathernecks and a shanked punt gave the Redbirds the ball back at the WIU 40 yard line.  A 21-yard completion from Roberson to Meredith put the Redbirds in the red zone, and a crucial third-down completion from Roberson to Meredith set the Redbird up first-and-goal at the 6-yard line.  On second down, Roberson faked the option and carried it in for the touchdown to cut the WIU lead to 27-20, following the extra point from Aussieker with 14:48 left in the game.
Following another punt by WIU, the Redbirds took over at their own 44-yard line and put together a 5-play, 56-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 27-27.  A 24-yard completion to O’Shaughnessy moved the ball to the WIU 32-yard line and a 21-yard completion to Meredith moved the ball to the 11-yard line.  Two plays later, Roberson found O’Shaughnessy in the end zone for a 9-yard score to tie the ball game.
However, the tie would be short-lived, as WIU answered on the next drive with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Trenton Norvell to Lance Lenoir put the Leathernecks back up by a touchdown at 34-27 with 10:52 left in the game.  A crucial third-down conversion from Roberson to Anthony Warrum on the next drive moved the Redbirds past midfield to the WIU 40.  A facemask penalty on the WIU defense would then move the ball down to the 24-yard line, and Roberson found Meredith for a 24-yard touchdown to tie the game again at 34-34 after the Aussieker extra point with 7:53 left.
On the ensuing drive, Western Illinois attempted a fourth-down conversion at midfield, but DraShane Glass batted down the pass and ISU took over.  The following Illinois State drive stalled, as O’Shaughnessy’s diving catch attempt on third down was ruled incomplete and the Redbird punt bounced in the end zone for a touchback.
The Leathernecks took over at their own 20 and drove to near mid-field, before David Perkins intercepted a Norvell pass at the line of scrimmage and returned it to the WIU 32-yard line.  The Redbirds moved the ball down to the WIU 17-yard line, before Aussieker nailed the winning field goal as time expired.
The Redbirds return home after the two-game road swing to host Missouri State (4-3, 1-2 MVFC) on Saturday, October 25 at Hancock Stadium at 6 p.m.



Redbirds Remain Steady In Top 10 Of National FCS Polls

For the second week in a row, Illinois State (6-0, 3-0 MVFC) needed a game-winning field goal to come from behind to get a win, this time at Western Illinois.  Following the victory, the Redbirds remained in the Top 10 of both national Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) polls released Monday.
The Redbirds are one of just four undefeated teams remaining in the Top 25 polls, alongside North Dakota State, Coastal Carolina and Harvard.  ISU stayed steady at No. 9 in the FCS Coaches Poll after the thrilling win against the Leathernecks and moved up one spot to No. 9 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25.  The No. 9 national ranking is the highest for ISU since 2012, when the Redbirds were also ranked No. 9 in early October.
The Redbirds held steady at No. 9 in the FCS Coaches Poll, and was the only other MVFC representative in the Top 10 along with unanimous No. 1 pick and three-time reigning national champion, North Dakota State (7-0).  The MVFC led all conferences once again with seven teams in the Top 25




Ironmen clinch Big 12 Title with 32-13 win over Champaign Centennial
by Tommy Lebow
Normal Community won its second consecutive Big 12 title Friday night after beating Champaign Centennial 32-13 on the road. The win was the Ironmen’s 18th consecutive win in the conference, dating back to September 2012, and secured their spot in the playoffs.
David Boyd opened the game in a big way for NCHS, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown; giving the Ironmen a 6-0 lead off the extra point was missed.
The Ironmen struggled with the extra point all game, and didn’t convert any of their five attempts.
Josh Kirshenbaum continued his high level of play, sandwiching two touchdown passes to Christian Wey around an 85 yard punt return touchdown by Centennial’s Dominic Stampley.
Normal Community used a trick punt to score a touchdown on a 35 yard touchdown pass from Wey to Riley Rahuba. The Ironmen’s first fake punt all season gave them a 24-7 lead at halftime.
Kirshenbaum’s 9 yard touchdown run was followed by a 32 yard touchdown pass from Centennial’s Michael Risinger to Julian Hess. The Ironmen ended the scoring by tackling Jeremiah Peoples in the end zone for a safety.
Kirshenbaum finished with 68 yards rushing and 191 yards passing.
Normal Community returns to the playoffs in two weeks, but before that, they take on Rich Central.



ISU Hoping Players’ Height Will Help Redbirds Reach New Heights In ’14-‘15
by Steve Robinson
To their coach’s way of thinking, opponents who face Illinois State’s basketball team this season are looking at facing a team that is one-half returning players and one-half newcomers. But regardless of their experience level, Redbirds head coach Dan Muller expects his players to be a handful for their challengers.
At his “Media Day” news conference at Redbird Arena on Wednesday, October 22nd, Muller said team practices have been “consistent” and his players have shown positive attitudes as they get ready for the season. “We’re obviously trying to build for what we want to be for the season,” explained the third-season head coach. “We have a lot of talent we can blend together.”
Length, or more accurately, height could be the key to this year’s Redbirds team as there are seven of the 14 players on the roster who range from 6 foot-7 to 6 foot-10. That includes 6 foot-7 freshman forward MiKyle McIntosh, 6 foot-8 junior forwards Will Ransom,  6 foot-8 freshman forward Deontae Hawkins, 6 foot-9 senior forward John Jones, and 6 foot-8 senior center James Stewarz.
With that kind of height, Muller said, his team “will have more options on both ends” of the court. Having played zone coverage against opponents last season, Muller said when his team resumes that tactic this season, taller bodies will “make our zone longer if and when we play it.” Muller added that man-to-man coverage is also helped by taller players because defending inside the paint will be easier.
“We’ll have different ways of getting the ball inside the paint with our length this year,” Muller said of another additional advantage.
“We have to shoot the ball well, and that will be a key for us this season,” Muller said. “But I think we have a chance to be a terrific rebounding team and a terrific defensive team because of that.”
  “We have so much flexibility in our lineup right now,” Muller said. “We could play small, as we did on the perimeter. I don’t think we’ll be small very often, but, we may, because we have a lot of guys who are wings at 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 , and even 6-7 that we can put on the court. It all depends on who plays best, and those guys will be rewarded with minutes.
“We’ll be bigger inside at all times than last year, and for our league, we’ll have great length,” Muller said.
Muller said shooting is critical for his team. “We don’t have to be a great shooting team,” Muller added. “We just have to shoot it good enough, and I’m confident that will happen because the guys from last year are way better shooters, and we obviously have some very talented shooters. But it will be critical for our spacing offensively.”
Expectations Against Bradley And Missouri Valley: Asked if he expects his team to contend for Missouri Valley Conference’s championship title, Muller, who helped ISU win the prize at the end of both the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons as a player, said, “Absolutely. We certainly hope to be in a position to contend for a Valley championship, and I think we have the talent, that if we play hard enough and play together enough, we can do that.”
“Bradley is certainly a special rivalry for us because of the history of it,” Muller said. But he added, he does not dwell on that contest all season. He said his team takes their schedule a game at a time, and waits until it is before them before getting his players psyched up for it.
Getting that accomplished, of course, means ISU, which finished 18-16 last year, including finishing in fourth in MVC with a 9-9 mark, would need to beat I-74 foe Bradley in the process. The two rivals split last season’s series with Bradley slamming the Redbirds, 64-45 at Carver Arena on Jan. 29, and ISU evening the series with a 70-54 win on Feb. 15 at Redbird Arena. 
Early Practices: With many Redbirds players having afternoon classes, Muller’s team have become early risers, holding morning practices, which has been something of a change for the squad. “The toughest thing for me or the coaches is, when you have to be done, you have to be done,” Muller said. “You can’t go long with practice if you want to watch film.”
Muller’s Biggest Concern: Early wake-up calls and practices ending promptly pale in comparison to what concerns Muller currently. He said one of his concerns is his team’s “ability to play together and play tough.” With newcomers on the team who have never experienced being in a close Division I contest, Muller said he wonders “how quickly can we learn the sense of urgency you need to get stops, or what the right play is. Sometimes, first year guys are great at that, and sometimes, it takes a while”
Muller said that particular aspect of play concerns him because it is something he can’t correct until his Redbirds are actually in a game situation. “We can scrimmage, we can go through special situations. Those are critical, but I don’t know how guys will respond on the road until we get there.” 
Circle Your Calendars: ISU opens the season at home Monday, Nov. 10 with an exhibition against Lewis University at 7 p.m. The Redbirds open the non-conference portion of their schedule at home against Utah State on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m., and ISU will participate in the U.S Virgin Islands Paradise Jam Tournament Nov. 21-23. Indiana State will be the first MVC team to visit Redbird Arena for a 4 p.m. game on Wednesday, Dec. 31. ISU and Bradley will square off Saturday, January 17 at 4 p.m. here, and in Peoria’s Carver Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m.






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