It's long been said officials only get noticed when they make a bad call. And it's true. Any good referee will tell you it's not about them, and it shouldn't be. But the future of high school athletics could be in the balance of the men and women who wear those zebra shirts.
Highlights and scores from Full Court Friday on 1/9.
It was another big year for Central Illinois high school sports. To help wrap up the year, we're counting down the top ten high school sports stories of 2014. WCIA 3's Matt Wettersten has stories ten through six.
BLOOMINGTON -- Centennial beat Edwardsville 56-48 in the third place game of the State Farm Holiday Classic Tuesday afternoon at Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University.
The Fisher boy's basketball team won the BSN Classic over VGH Monday night 77-65. Monticello fell to Ridgeview 65-56 in the Sages Holiday Hoopla finals while the Mt. Zion Lady Indians won the girls Hoopla title over Neoga 66-55.
Highlights and scores from a busy day of high school basketball tournaments and college hoops from across Central Illinois.
The Monticello boys basketball team won both its games at the opening day of the Sages Holiday Hoopla Friday, beating Argenta-Oreana 57-52 and Negoa 75-33.
The Parkland men's and women's basketball teams both won Saturday while the St. Thomas More girl's basketball team beat Peoria Christian.
MAROA, Ill. - Jack Hockaday completed one of the best football careers in IHSA history. He broke the state's all-time yardage record and saved his best season for last, carrying more of the load than ever and leading the Trojans to the state finals. "It just means I've had great players with me to go along with me to help me along the way," Hockaday said of the numerous school and state records he holds. "Great coaches, and I'm just going to give all the props to them."
Sacred Heart-Griffin won its second straight state football title Saturday, beating Lombard Montini 29-14 at Memorial Stadium. The Cyclones finished the season with a 14-0 record.
Rochester won its fifth-straight state football title Friday night, beating Chicago Phillips 49-28 at Memorial Stadium.
Eastland-Pearl City crushed Maroa-Forsyth 41-12 in the Class 2A state title football game Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Maroa-Forsyth, Rochester and SHG will all play for state football titles this weekend at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Mahomet-Seymour senior Christian Romine signed his national letter of intent to play for UTEP next year. Before he goes though, he will lead the Bulldogs, who return three double-digit scorers from last season.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Big changes could soon be coming to the high school football landscape in Illinois. A new proposal would eliminate football conferences, and instead the IHSA would place teams in regions based on geography and enrollment. This proposal was submitted by Sycamore principal Tim Carlson. It has been approved by the IHSA's Legislative Commission, and it now goes to the member schools for final approval.
CHARLESTON, Ill. - Charleston High School will have a new football coach next season. Longtime head coach Brian Halsey was fired at Wednesday night's school board meeting after 15 years as Charleston's head coach. Halsey led the Trojans to the state semifinals in 2011, but the team had fallen on hard times going just 2-16 over the last two seasons. Charleston principal Trevor Doughty told WCIA 3 that Halsey will stay employed as a social studies teacher.
TUSCOLA, Ill. - Switching schools just a few weeks before his senior year started wasn't something Jarrett McMasters ever envisioned. He was planning on playing his last year of football at Monticello, where he would have been a starter in the Sages' secondary. But when his mom moved to Tuscola in August, Jarrett went with her - even though there were a lot of unknowns. "When I first came here they took me in and made it easy on me," McMasters said. "Everyone has been very nice and it's a great community too."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Centennial football coach Mike McDonnell announced Wednesday he is calling it quits. McDonnell will retire after 18 seasons as Centennial head coach. Over those 18 years McDonnell racked up 103 wins and led the Chargers to 11 playoff appearances. He held a team meeting with his players and fellow coaches Wednesday after school to inform them of his decision. He will also retire from his position as P.E. teacher. Before arriving at Centennial, 'Coach Mac' was an assistant coach at Illinois and a graduate assistant under legendary head coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State.
TUSCOLA, Ill. - Three years ago Tuscola football capped off a remarkable stretch of seasons. They made it to the state finals five out of six years - winning it all twice. The last three of those trips were under Rick Reinhart, who had never previously coached in the state finals in more than 30 years on the sidelines. "I knew exactly how tough it was," Reinhart said of winning a state title. "I don't think the average bear understands how hard it is. In each run we had two or three games that could have gone either way. I was very fortunate to have kids get the job done and coaches to help get it done. To go three times that's ridiculous - and five out of six years, we're spoiled."
BISMARCK, Ill. - Bismarck-Henning coach Mark Dodd doesn't have to remind his team about where they have been or how far they have come. The Blue Devils are well aware of both. This year's seniors have won 38 games in four years, but they had never made it past the second round. That was until Saturday when they became the best in school history with a three touchdown win over perennial powerhouse Casey-Westfield. "It meant a lot," said quarterback Dylan Allen. "It was very exciting since it had never been done before."
Watseka beat IC Catholic in three sets at the Class 2A Christ the King super-sectional Saturday afternoon to advance to the state tournament. Cissna Park knocked off Schlarman in three to move on in the 1A tournament.
St. Joseph-Ogden won the Class 1A girls cross country state title Saturday afternoon while Monticello won the Class 1A boys championship.
SJO beat Unity 41-14 while Tuscola edged top-seeded Lawrenceville 28-21 Saturday afternoon.
HIGHLAND, Ill. - Taylorville fell behind early, but ran away with the game down the stretch as they beat Highland 36-15 in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. The Tornadoes not only earn their first ever 10-win season, but they also advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history. Taylorville awaits the winner of SHG/Marion next weekend.
MAHOMET, Ill. - Mahomet-Seymour will make the 90-minute trip north Saturday to face Morris in the second round of the IHSA state football playoffs. The Bulldogs are coming off the program's first ever Class 5A playoff victory; they beat Washington by 20 last weekend. Mahomet-Seymour has predominantly been a 4A school; they've only played in 5A two other times. Increasing enrollments, though, have bumped the Bulldogs up this year. That jump means tougher competition. Morris is 6-4, but two of their losses were in overtime to 5A and 6A schools. "They come from a super tough league, they're a very good football team," Mahomet-Seymour coach Keith Pogue said of Morris. "If we can pass block and get a little bit of a run game going it's going to present them a lot of challenges. On the other side of the ball, we've got to play solid run defense. So stopping their run and having solid pass protection are two of the big keys for us."
TOLONO, Ill. - No one knows the St. Joseph-Ogden/Unity rivalry quite like Cody Stunkard and Collin Davis. Both are assistant coaches on Scott Hamilton's Unity staff, but nine years ago they were a big part of the Rockets' 21-20 double overtime quarterfinal win over SJO. It is still regarded as one of the most historic games in the matchup. "That game is definitely one of the most memorable ones out of high school," said Stunkard. "They had the top defense in the state, and it goes to show that it's any given Saturday when it comes to the playoffs."
ARCOLA, Ill. - The playoff mohawks are out in full force this week in Arcola as the Purple Riders are one win away from their first 11-win season since 1997. Arcola will take a 10-0 record into Saturday's showdown with Camp Point (Central.) "It's exciting to be one of the few teams left playing," head coach Zach Zehr said. "Each week you go, it's a big step and it's a big win."
TUSCOLA, Ill. - When No. 10 throws a touchdown pass to No. 83, it has special meaning in Tuscola. It's a brotherly connection. Junior quarterback Nick Bates always knows where to find his senior brother Zach. "It's just really nice because the chemistry is always there because we just know each other so well, what we're going to do," said Zach. "We've been playing together for eight or seven years."
Highlights and scores from the first round of the high school football playoffs.
PAXTON, Ill. - When PBL beat Bismarck-Henning back in week two Panthers coach Jeff Graham had a feeling this would be the year they finally made it back to the postseason. "Obviously it's a huge game for us now looking back at it," he said. "It did give our kids some confidence on winning close games and being there."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Central has won more than 675 football games dating all the way back to 1894, making it one of the most historic programs in the state. Recently, though, the Maroons have struggled. They haven't had a winning record in 12 years - until now. "After last year, I knew we were going to be the team to do it," said senior running back Montrel Moore. "We've been working so hard."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Centennial Chargers are back in the playoffs for the first time in four years. When they host Chatham Glenwood Friday night, it will be the first time since 2002 that the Chargers have hosted a first round playoff game. "We've got something to prove," said senior Austin Maltbia, who leads the team in rushing. "We haven't been as good in the past, and with our huge senior class, we all want to prove something - prove that we deserve to be here."
Blue Ridge won its first sectional title in program history Saturday, beating St. Thomas More 1-0. Danville won its first regional title Saturday, beating Central 2-1.
IHSA playoff pairings were announced Saturday night. Central is back in the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Maroons will play at Metamora in the first round, as they try and win their first playoff game since 1982.
Highlights and scores from Week 9 of Friday Football Fever
All the best moments from Week 9 on Friday Football Fever - in 90 seconds
GIBSON CITY, Ill. - GCMS will try to get that all-important sixth win Friday night when they visit Fisher in our Friday Football Fever spotlight game. To get ready for the playoffs GCMS played both of its non-conference games this year against playoff-contending teams. One of those, Unity, beat the Falcons by 40 points. They say it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, and if they can get a win Friday and lock up a playoff spot, they'll be better off for it.
ARCOLA, Ill. - When Zach Zehr was named head coach at Arcola two years ago the Deer Creek native knew all about the Purple Riders' rich football history. Now he is part of it. Zehr has Arcola back in the spotlight - much like the program was in the 1970s and 1980s when Steve Thomas coached the Purple Riders to double-digit wins in 11 out of 17 seasons. "For me it just goes back to other people before me," Zehr said of Arcola's football tradition. "Everybody that's still around here who were part of building all that up."
Highlights and scores from Friday Football Fever on 10/17.
OAKLAND, Ill. - Tri-County will try to clinch the outright LOVC Southeast division championship when they host Villa Grove-Heritage Friday night. The Titans (4-0, 6-1) hold a one-game lead over both VGH and Cumberland, and a win Friday night would give them their first outright conference title since 2010. Tri-County's only loss this year was a 30-14 loss at Clifton Central, but they expect Friday's game to be as tough as any all year. As for the other side of this matchup, VGH (3-1, 6-1) will try to bounce back from its first loss last week against Cumberland. The Blue Devils' goal of a conference title isn't out of reach yet, but it will take a victory at Tri-County Friday if they want a piece of that conference crown.
Highlights and scores from Friday Football Fever 10/10.
MAROA, Ill. - The Okaw Valley may only have six teams, but it has been a battle each and every week. Only two conference games remain, and our Spotlight Game this week between Maroa-Forsyth at St. Joseph-Ogden will be a matchup of two state-ranked teams. WCIA 3's Matt Wettersten has more on the major implications for this week's matchup in Maroa.
ST. JOSEPH, Ill. - Just a week before football practice started last year, SJO junior Ty Brown was working out with a few of his teammates running around the school track when he suddenly fell down. "Our last sprint we were doing, about halfway through I just felt something," Brown said. "It felt like someone kicked me in the back of the knee and I just fell down. It was probably the worst pain of my life."
Sullivan-Okaw Valley has already qualified for the playoffs this season, the Redskins could clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2001 with one more victory this season.
Vote on the Friday Football Fever Plays of the Week 6 between Maroa-Forsyth's Jack Hockaday, Cerro Gordo-Bement's Gage Fowler or Tuscola's Nick and Zach Bates.
HIGHLIGHTS & SCORES from Week 6 of Friday Football Fever
Re-live the best moments from Week 6 of Friday Football Fever - in 90 seconds
CLINTON, Ill. - You may not find a player more excited to be at practice than Jacob Pourchot. Pourchot has cerebral palsy. He may not be the biggest or fastest, but his passion and determination are second to none. "People at school and on the team treat me like a normal person, like I should be treated," Pourchot said. "I just love it. It's not something that's going to stop me. I wrestle. I started wrestling last year. I said 'This isn't going to stop me.' I'm going to do whatever I want. It isn't going to stop me. I'm not going to let it."
TUSCOLA, Ill. - Tuscola coach Rick Reinhart usually doesn't take time to reflect on his teams wins. But last Friday's victory over Central A&M was different. After the final whistle blew and dozens of his former players congratulated him on his 200th career win -- the reality of becoming one of less than 75 coaches in Illinois history to accomplish the feat finally set in. "That did kind of make me sit back and say, 'Wow, that's a long time,'" he said. "And also just something that every kid I've ever coached, that's ours, not mine. It was special, it really was."
Vote for the top high school play of the week.