Blickensderfer Will Retire As Meridian High School
Principal At End Of This School Year
Jack Blickensderfer tonight (Tuesday) told the Decatur Tribune he is retiring at the end of this school year as principal of Meridian High School.
During an interview with me between games of the Macon County boys tournament at St. Teresa, Blickensderfer said he has not decided whether or not to continue as the Hawks basketball head coach after this season.
"I'm just ready to leave administration," said Blickensderfer in his conversation with me. "The new school is built and I'm ready to enjoy life."
Blickensderfer said education is changing from the time he first got into teaching and coaching, including today where "administrators, including principals, superintendents and school boards are held more accountable.
"When I started (in education) we didn't have free lunch programs or after school programs," said the retiring principal, not being critical, just citing his feelings toward how education is changing nationally, including central Illinois.
"I was probably more people driven, today education is more data driven," said Blickensderfer.
"Previously, I dealt with people, now it is all testing," said he, adding, "I'm more old school than new school."
Read more of my interview with Blickensderfer in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune. He has so much more to say about education and the changes he's experienced, including his personal philosophies that have served him well.
86th Annual County Boys Tourney Pairings Set
Top-seed St. Teresa opens play at 6 o'clock Monday night, Dec. 9, against eight-seed Central A&M as the 86th annual Macon County boys tournament tips off at the Bulldogs gym.
The second game that night features four-seed Warrensburg-Latham meeting five-seed Cerro Gordo/Bement.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, two-seed Meridian plays seven-seed Sangamon Valley at 6 followed by three-seed Argenta-Oreana against six-seed Maroa-Forsyth.
The Monday and Tuesday night winners meet at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Thursday night with the consolation bracket following at 8:30.
The Monday and Tuesday night losers meet at 6 and 7:30 Wednesday night with the winner of that game playing for the consolation title at 8:30 Thursday night.
The third place game between the two losers from Thursday night's first two games meet at 6 and the championship tips off at 7:30 Friday featuring the winners of Thursday night's first two games.
The Macon County boys tournament is the fifth oldest in central Illinois.
Thomas: Beckman Staying
To no one's surprise, Illinois Athletics Director Mike Thomas said this morning (Monday) that Tim Beckman will return for a third season next fall.
Beckman has been under fire for the losses his teams have sustained during his first two seasons and some fans wanted Thomas to fire him.
But that made no sense since Thomas already is paying huge sums of money to former coaches Ron Zook, Bruce Weber and Jolette Law.
Firing Beckman, after only two years, would have coaches throughout the country scratching their heads wondering why they risk coming to the Fighting Illini when the AD only gives a coach two years.
Thomas hired Beckman. He isn't going to fire the coach he hired.
I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Maroa-Forsyth's Season Ends with 14-6 Loss
In the last four years, Maroa-Forsyth's seniors won one state championship (2012), one runnerup (2010) and two semi-final losses (2011 and this year).
When they were freshmen in 2010 they went 11-3 and finished second in state, as sophomores in 2011 they went 12-1 and lost in the semi-finals which was the game in which quarrterback Logan Stezriede sustained his concussion in the first quarter, as juniors in 2012 they won the state championship at 13-1, their only loss in the artificial surface dedication game to Tolono Unity in the second game of the regular season and in inclement weather, and as seniors this year they went 12-1 and lost in the semi-finals to a Downs-Tri-Valley team that defeated two Okaw Valley teams to advance to last weekend's state championship game in DeKalb--Argenta-Oreana and the Trojans.
For those of you keeping track, these seniors will leave the Trojans program with an overall 48-6 record which is quite a legacy to leave for the returning juniors, sophomores and freshmen and those coming into the high school next year and in future years from their Junior Football League program.
Since that loss to Tolono Unity in 2012, the Trojans won 24 straight before the loss in Downs Nov. 23.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have more on the Trojans season in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Illini End Losing Streak
Illinois' 20-game Big Ten Conference losing streak is over.
Tim Beckman's Illini kicked two field goals in the second half for a 20-14 win over Purdue in West Lafeyette, IN. Saturday afternoon.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have more on this story in a future Decatur Tribune print edition.
Binkley To Return To Warrensburg-Latham For 29th Season
Vic Binkley will return to Warrensburg-Latham for a 29th season next season when the Cardinals begin play in the new Central Illinois Conference.
Kristen Kendrick, Warrensburg-Latham superintendent, e-mailed the Decatur Tribune earlier this morning (Thursday) to inform it that the Board of Education Wednesday night had approved Binkley to coach boys basketball in 2014-15.
Binkley begins his 28th season as the Cardinals coach next week when they open their season. He retires at the end of this academic year as a teacher and there had been some question if the district would allow him to coach next year. That has been put to rest now.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Maroa-Forsyth Trojans Should Win Says
Maroa-Forsyth is one win away from having the opportunity to play for a permanent place in Illinois High School Association football history. Win and they will become one of 16 teams to play for football championships for the first time in Huskie Stadium on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb where the title games have been moved for odd numbered years. Two teams each in eight classes will compete Thanksgiving Weekend for state crowns.
Chad Eisenmenger's Argenta-Oreana Bombers have played and lost to Saturday's semi-finalists--Maroa-Forsyth and Downs Tri-Valley.
So, there's no better source to go to for a prediction on the outcome.
Here goes Eisenmenger's analysis with his predicted winner.
"They are very similar in that they both have a variety of weapons on offense. Their lines also mirror each other in that they are not big but fast and physical," wrote Eisenmenger when asked by the Decatur Tribune.
"Both teams overall speed is very good. The thing I find most interesting is that they have all of these similarities, but completely opposite philosophies with Maroa spread passing game and Tri Valley's double wing run game. I will say Tri Valley better find a way to throw a little bit to keep Maroa defense somewhat honest otherwise it may be a long day for Tri Valley.
"I am not up to speed on the Maroa injuries but I still think Maroa pulls it out. Healthy Maroa wins by at least 2-3 scores," forecasted Eisenmenger.
Trojan, Decatur and Macon County and Okaw Valley fans hope he's right.
Broncos, Trojans Advance to Quarters,
Dawgs Win 4th Cross-Country Title
Cerro Gordo/Bement and Maroa-Forsyth are home Saturday for quarter-final Class 2A and 1A football playoff games.
St. Teresa's girls cross-country team won their fourth straight championship Saturday morning in Detweiller Park in Peoria. Senior Rachel Devereux led the Bulldogs with her fourth place individual finish.
The Bulldogs won the cross-country title with 73 points, well ahead of second-place Rochester's 116. St. Teresa placed five girls in the top 21.
For their efforts, they have been acclaimed the top NHSCA DIIgirls cross-country team in the nation.
The Broncos had an easy time of advancing with their 37-13 win over Athens. But the Trojans had to come-from-behind in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter to defeat the host Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond team, 24-19.
As a result of their victories, Camp Point Central comes to Maroa-Forsyth's Walter Boyd Field for a 3 o'clock kickoff and Auburn comes to Bement for a 1:30 kickoff against Cerro Gordo/Bement.
While the St. Teresa cross-country team won their championship, the volleyball was not as fortunate, falling in three sets to Deer Creek-Mackinaw, the same team that ousted them last year at Riverton. Warrensburg-Latham hosted this year's super-sectional where the Bulldogs won the first set, but lost the next two.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have on all these local sports stories in this week's print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
St. Teresa Advances to Saturday's
Karen Wooden, in her second season as St. Teresa's volleyball program, and her lady Bulldogs will play Saturday evening at 6 o'clock against Deer Creek-Mackinaw in the Warrensburg-Latham super-sectional.
St. Teresa advanced to the super-sectionals with its 25-16 and 25-20 set wins over St. Joseph-Ogden to capture the Argenta-Oreana sectional championship.
Marie Less once again led the way.
The Bulldogs opponent, Deer Creek-Mackinaw, earned its spot opposite St. Teresa with its win over Springfield Lutheran at the Havana sectional.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Illinois Offers Hockaday Scholarship
Maroa-Forsyth football head coacj Josh Jostes just informed (Friday morning) that Tim Beckman's University of Illinois football program has offered a scholarship to Jack Hockaday, the junior quarterback and defensive back of the undefeated Trojans.
Hockaday now has offers from the three I's in the Big Ten--Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara is going to be at Walter Boyd Field Saturday afternoon for the Trojans opening round playoff game against Tuscola and will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Local Basketball Sites Confirmed
With construction in the stretch run at Eisenhower and activity at MacArthur increasing and with moving schedules tight, Deputy Superintendent Lisa Taylor has confirmed where Eisenhower and MacArthur boys basketball teams will be playing their home December and January games.
Eisenhower will play its December boys basketball games in Stephen Decatur Middle School which has been its home since modernization and renovation began at its South 16th Street location more than a year ago.
MacArthur will continue to play its home games in its present facility during December.
But in January their locations change as Eisenhower moves into its new building.
The Panthers will play their January and February games in their new gym.
MacArthur moves its games to Stephen Decatur Middle School for those two months while its school undergoes its modernization and renovation.
Taylor met with Athletic Directors Greg Collingwood and Jason Crutcher Friday morning to go over these plans.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have more on this developing in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Kreps Heads to Slovakia
Robo Kreps leaves Saturday afternoon for Slovakia to resume his international professional basketball career after more than a year away from the game.
Kreps left the Ministry of Internal Affairs Georgia team in February 2012, but has remained active by working out in Chicago with a personal trainer and playing during the summer against National Basketball Association players.
Since leaving the international game, he has had hip surgery which is completely healed and he's ready for one more shot at playing.
Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara chatted with Kreps earlier today (Friday) about this opportunity, including how he's coped with not playing the game he's loved and excelled at since growing up as a child. McNamara will have more details from that conversation in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
'Success Factor' Draws Concerns
One of the hottest topics this year and for the next few in state prep athletics involves a "success factor" for schools, whose teams have been successful in sports the Illinois High School Association sponsors.
For those who have been successful for several years would be moved up a class. Why should the schools who succeed be punished for that by those who can't win on their own and want to elevate their programs at the expense of those whose student-athletes work harder, sacrifice more and commit themselves than theirs do. By penalizing others for their success doesn't improve their chances at success. It will continue their own mediocrity.
Decatur Tribune sports editor J. Thomas McNamara has contacted all Decatur and Macon County high school principals for their thoughts on the IHSA initiative and will detail them in a future print edition of the newspaper.
IHSA director and Maroa-Forsyth principal Scott Adreon, Argenta-Oreana principal Sean German, Decatur Christian principal Greg Bradley, St. Teresa chief executive officer and principal Dr. Ken Hendriksen, Eisenhower principal Charles Hoots, MacArthur principal Rhonda Key, Deputy Superintendent Lisa Taylor, Central A&M athletic director Mike Conlin and Meridian principal Jack Blickensderfer have responded to McNamara's questions about their thoughts that will be discussed Tuesday, Oct. 29, at a district meeting. Their comments will interest Decatur Tribune readers.
Duke Expresses Interest In Maroa-Forsyth's Jack Hockaday
Jack Hockaday, Maroa-Forsyth's junior quarterback, is a hot commodity.
Duke is the latest Division 1 university to express interest in the talented Trojan athlete, who already has received scholarship from three Big Ten schools--Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska, and has visited others, including Illinois and Northwestern. In addition, he has been to Vanderbilt and attended a camp at Ohio State.
Hockaday is projected as either a defensive back or linebacker in college.
I will continue to keep Decatur Tribune website readers abreast of developments on Hockaday's recruiting. I will also have an update in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Nebraska Offers Hockaday Scholarship
Shortly after 7 o'clock tonight (Tuesday), Nebraska offered Maroa-Forsyth quarterback Jack Hockaday a scholarship.
Trojans Head Coach Josh Jostes advised this writer of the offer around 7:30.
Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers are the third Big Ten school to offer the Trojans talented athlete.
Indiana and Iowa are the other Big 10 schools, who have offered Hockaday scholarships.
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Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara has been on top of this story throughout this season of the schools he has visited, including Illinois and Vanderbilt. He will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Groce Meets Fans, Answers Questions On
WSOY's Special Edition Of Sports Talk
Any doubt that the Decatur community bleeds Illini orange-and-blue was removed Sunday night at the Hickory Point Golf Club when about 300 die-hard fans turned out to see John Groce and Mike Thomas on the Special Edition of SportTalk, hosted by Mark Tupper and Tim Cain.
For the 22nd year WSOY has conducted these sessions with Illinois basketball head coaches, starting with Lou Henson, continuing through Lon Kruger, Bill Self, Bruce Weber and now Groce.
Groce answered Tupper's questions about the basketball program, including nine newcomers, five freshmen and four transfers. And Thomas brought the fans up-to-date with the renovation plans for the State Farm Center where fans soon will see signs of it getting underway since the southeast parking lot will house construction trailers in early November.
About the newcomers and transfers, Groce told those present that "makes it fun and challenging..."
He admitted coaches by nature are not a very patient group, saying he can't and won't accelerate the teaching of these young men.
"I love our guys, they are very coachable, very teachable and they are great group of guys on-and-off-the court," said Groce.
He said he was not pleased with how his players played in the orange-and-blue scrimmage last Thursday night, informing they practiced better Friday and Saturday than they played Thursday night and that came "after a very intense film session Friday."
While he was not pleased with his team's overall play, he was with their shot selection and conditioning.
Thomas spoke of the changes fans can expect when they come to see future basketball games in November 2016 at the State Farm Center, informing that air conditioning the building will be one-fourth of the total multi-million dollar project.
I was at the gathering and will have more on their appearance in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
St. Teresa PE Annex Construction Underway
Although the footings already have been poured, Dr. Ken Hendriksen, chief executive officer and principal of St. Teresa, and co-chair Aimee Fyke spoke briefly this afternoon as the school held formal groundbreaking ceremonies.
The new physical education annex that will include weight room and locker rooms will open in May 2014.
"This is going to be a state-of-the-art Catholic facility for you and future St. Teresa generations," said Fyke in his brief remarks, adding that she has been humbled by the outpouring of support from everyone for these physical improvements to the St. Teresa facilities.
"Two years ago we stood before you and announced this 'Believe-Build-Become' campaign and to date we've raised more than $6 million," said the co-chair, who shares that role with Tracey Jerger.
Hendriksen also cited the campaign announcement which he informed came at Homecoming two years ago. Since then they have put on a new roof, added central air conditioning and heating to the entire campus, added outside rest rooms for fans to use as football and soccer events as well as improvements to the gym's front lobby.
He applauded the donors to the campaign as being "the St. Teresa family," who have raised that six million plus dollars.
I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Bidding Adieu to Ron and Mary Ann Rector
During their years in Decatur and Macon County, Ron Rector and wife Mary Ann have touched many lives with their friendship and ministering to others.
The chef first met Ron on the sidelines at one of the prep football games when he and his family moved to Decatur from Arkansas in September 1989 to become sports director of television station WAND.
Before leaving that position in 2002, Rector and I were on the sidelines and courtside together for many football and basketball games. Last year we chatted before football and basketball games he called for area radio stations, including Mount Zion, who will honor him at Friday night's game when Charleston comes to town to play the Braves. It's well-deserved.
He also was responsible for the start of what has become a WAND staple on its Friday night coverage of prep sports with his "Friday Night Frenzy" that continues to this day, obviously under different sports personalities.
I'll also remember his involvement with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and his hosting two FCA breakfast for teams competing in the Team Soy Decatur Thanksgiving basketball tournament. On Saturday mornings before that afternoon's consolation bracket games, Rector, his wife and family came in and setup the catered breakfast that Kevin Breheny financed. That went on for a couple of years where the players enjoyed the fellowship of being together in a non-competitive environment.
Tournament coordinator Mel Roustio said, "Ron is one of the good guys, who I wish him and his wife well as they relocate to Austin, Texas to be closer to his family."
As Ron continues to fight multiple sclerosis, we, too, wish him well as he relocates to the home of the Texas Longhorns that will be difficult for the Arkansas Razorback fan. He says the Hogs will still be first, but he might learn to do a "hook 'em horn" sign.
I'll never forget when the Thanksgiving tournament was being contested at Griswold Center, a television in the hospitality room had a college football game on that weekend when Rector walked in, quipping, "how are my Hogs doing." He also can do a good Arkansas pig sooey chant Razorback fans are noted for and that comes from his wife, who is a huge, I mean big, Razorback fan. In fact, Ron says she was personally responsible for Bill Self scheduling the Illini to play Arkansas at the United Center in Chicago. With his coverage of Illini basketball, Rector was able to arrange tickets for Mary Ann and the family to attend the game where she wore his Arkansas gear which Self enjoyed. He even arranged for them to come to pre-game press conference with Mary Ann in her Razorback gear.
They are not alone in the Decatur community for his love of the Hogs as Ty Mason, the former MacArthur General, played there four years as linebacker and who, too, can do a good pig sooey chant of his own.
Also, I remember the times his wife Mary Ann assisted the women at the Decatur Correctional Center where I worked as records office supervisor. The women loved her. And Ron said Mary Ann is already at work attempting to land a job in prison ministry in Austin.
One of his favorite comments which I'll never forget is, "If you put Jesus Christ first, he'll never come in second."
My wife and I now have another reason to visit Texas since southerners always say, "y'all come, you hear!" In closing, I've never seen Ron without a smile on his face despite the physical disease he's battling.
God speed, friend!
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Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have more on this story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Coaches To Be Feted There's no one more responsible for the Team Soy Thanksgiving Tournament continuing than Mel Roustio, tournament coordinator. This Thanksgiving event will be the 44th annual. And he's come up with another coup with his decision to recognize and honor two significant groups on Wednesday night when MacArthur plays East St. Louis. They are--the 1962 Eisenhower state championship baseball team and all living former basketball head coaches from the four city public schools--Eisenhower, Lakeview, MacArthur and Stephen Decatur. Here are the ones we have come up. At this point I ask that readers write me at decaturtribune.com if I omitted anyone. As tournament historian, the chef was given that responsibility. I hope I haven't missed anyone since they came from the school summaries on the IHSA website and from conversations with various coaches. They are: Lakeview from 1969 to 1982--Ron Parr, Don Walker, Terry Rainey; Stephen Decatur--Dean Padgett, Rease Binger, Dave Kreps, Roustio himself, Tom Crews, Tim Cruz; Eisenhower--Eric Newbon, Jeremy Moore, Roustio, Sid Tucker, Bob Moore, Kurt Keller, Bob Lockart;
MacArthur--Felipe Phillips, Bret Reedy, Clark Barnes, Brett Williams, Bob Darling and Walker.
Dale's Southlake Pharmacy has agreed to sponsor the coaches recognition ceremonies.
About his plans, Roustio said, "During these previous 12 Decatur/Team Soy Capital 'Turkey Tournaments (those are the ones he's headed),' we have not only elevated the quality of competition and showcased numerous Division I basketball players, but we, likewise, have used the tourney's format to celebrate Decatur's sports history and special citizens.
"The 44th Annual 'Turkey Classic' finds more special invites and highlights. On Wednesday, Nov. 27, we will welcome back the 1962 Eisenhower State Baseball Championship Team and all living public school basketball coaches who once mentored basketball teams at the Turkey Tourney. I believe every coach and player will tell you that is nice to be remembered and always fun to share in these reunions," concluded the tournament coordinator. The Thanksgiving tournament began in 1969 which replaced the previous city basketball tournament.