SPORTS SCENE

Mac on Sports

Scheduling Change Could be Coming
 
    Administrators of member schools throughout the Illinois High School Association will now decide whether or the governing organization starts scheduling all prep football games which would eliminate the need for football conferences.
    The IHSA Legislative Commission approved the proposal that would require the IHSA to schedule regular-season games for all football-playing schools after placing them into regions based on enrollment. The top four teams in each region, based on regular-season results, would qualify for the playoffs, which would remain at 32 teams per class.
    "The vote to advance the football proposal was a surprise," said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman.  "At the town meetings there seemed to be little support for a sweeping change like this.  But it speaks to the passionate feelings we've heard from both sides of this issue that the Commission thought it best to put the question to the membership."
    Member school administrators may begin voting on this proposal and others, Dec. 1, with balloting closing Dec. 30 and a decision announced Jan. 6.  Hickman said a majority vote is all that is required to pass the proposal which is outlined below, but doesn't address how the "success factor" will affect who plays in what classes. 
   Proposal 10 would revamp the football regular season and the football playoff system. The following major changes are specified:
   --Regular-season competition takes place in seven-, eight-, or nine-team regions that replace conferences.  The regions would be based on geography and enrollment.
   --The regions are valid for two years, with playing schedules determined by formula. Schools will have at least one inter-region game on their regular-season schedule.
   --Each of the eight-playoff classes is made up of eight regions. The top four teams from each region qualify for the playoffs.  Each playoff class has 32 teams.
   --In each class, four regions are placed in the north bracket and four in the south bracket. Within each bracket, the teams placing one, two, three, four in each regional are placed by formula so that they are in different quarters. Each quarter of the bracket includes a one, two, three, and four team, coming from 4 different regions.
    Matt Troha of the IHSA said 2016 would be earliest the changes would take place if members approved.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

Hockaday Now State Record Holder
 
    With at least one game left in his career, Saturday afternoon's Class 2A semi-final game at Tuscola, Maroa-Forsyth's quarterback Jack Hockaday now is the Illinois High School Association career total offense leader.
    After last Saturday's win at Athens, Hockaday now has 10,888 yards total offense, breaking the previous mark of 10,632 yards total offense by Aurora Christian's Jordan Roberts, who did it from from 2005 to 2008.
    A Trojans win Saturday afternoon against the Warriors would give Hockaday the state championship game in which to add to his career record. 
    Incidentally, his brother, Luke, was ranked eighth before Jack surpassed Roberts which means Luke is now ninth on that all-time list with 7,836 yards.
    Total offense includes a player's rushing and passing yardage.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

Big Blue Coach Etherton Makes Staff Changes
 
    Millikin football head coach Patrick Etherton confirmed this morning (Tuesday) that he is making some staff changes in light of the Big Blue's 1-6 College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin and 3-7 overall record.
    In response to my question this morning, Etherton said,  "Offensive coordinator Tim Connell and Defense Line Coach Patrick Colligan are no longer part of the Millikin football staff. 
    "While I appreciate the hard work put in by Coach Connell and Coach Colligan, I felt a change was needed to help move the Millikin football program forward.  I wish Tim and Pat the best in the future and I am excited to start the process of finding two new coaches to help take us to the next level," said Coach Etherton.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

Millikin Volleyball Season Comes To An End
 
    St. Louis--Millikin's volleyball season came to an end this afternoon (Friday) when Thomas More defeated Debbie Kiiick's team, 3-2, at the NCAA tournament regionals on the campus of Washington University-St. Louis.
    Each team won a set by the identical scores of 25-20.  Thomas More won the first set with the Big Blue women taking the second.  The third set also went to the Big Blue.
    Thomas More won the fourth set, 27-25, that set the stage for the deciding set five for the match which Thomas More won.
    "Thomas More is a very formidable ball club and they should be very proud of the way they played today," said Kiick.  "Our girls were warriors out there and played hard, but we had a few breaking points where we made mistakes.  We lost to a great team that played great."
    Millikin finished the season 30-10.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

Trojans Advance to Supers
 
    Maroa-Forsyth's volleyball team tonight (Thursday) won the Champaign St. Thomas More sectional with their win over St. Joseph-Ogden.
    Jamie McCool's team now gets to play at home Saturday night in the super-sectional against the winner of the Athens sectional which was still to be determined when this was written.
    Match begins Saturday night at 7 o'clock.
    It's going to be a busy Saturday for Decatur Tribune sports editor J. Thomas McNamara, who will be in Maroa for the 1 o'clock Class 2A playoff game between the Trojans and the Sangamon Valley Storm and then be in the gym for the Trojans volleyball super-sectional game with a noon berth Friday, Nov. 14, in the state championship volleyball tournament in Redbird Arena.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

Illini to Play In Capital City in 2015
 

Groce:  Illini Will be Better Offensively
 
    Last year Illinois ended the season ranked 11th in the country defensively, but offensively they were in the middle of the pack which won't be the case this year with Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby shooting from beyond the arc.
    That was one of the points Illinois head coach John Groce made Sunday night at a special edition of Mark Tupper and Tim Cain's "SportsTalk" on WSOY Talk Radio 1340.
    Speaking before an orange-and-blue crowd at Hickory Point banquet center, Groce informed, "We are going to be significantly better shooting team than we were last year," which brought huge applause from the partisan faithful because everyone remembers how offensively challenged they were last year when somehow the ball ended up in Rayvonte Rice's hands as the shot clock wound down.
    In addition, "we are much farther along at this point in the season than we were three years ago," said the coach, who begins his third season on the hardwood next month.
    I will have more on Groce's appearance in Decatur in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

Some Thoughts On Illinois Basketball Media Day

   Culture...
    If John Groce used that word once, he used it dozens of times at this afternoon's (Thursday) Illinois basketball media day to describe his 2014-15 Illinois basketball team which is going to be deeper, more experienced and more competitive than it's been in his previous two years as the Illini's head coach.
    Entering his third season, Groce spoke about his team's willingness to sacrifice for the team instead of worrying about individual honors or awards, pointing out, "i've told them everyone has to sacrifice for us to succeed and that I as their coach, our assistant coaches, our support personnel and others have to sacrifice to succeed and I expect that of them."
    That was one of the times he spoke about the culture he is instilling in this year's squad which he says will be deeper than his previous two and that he expects to play eight or 10 players in a game to take advantage of it.  He added, though, "I've told the players, players play players," indicating their play in practice and in games will determine who plays and who doesn't.
    Later, he spoke of the two D's--discipline and detail--as addition spokes in that "culture" wheel.
    While he said he wasn't interested in setting goals of specific wins, the coach said he's told his team that has been practicing since Oct. 3, "We want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season and we want to get better each day.  If we do that, the outcomes will take care of themselves.
    "As I told Tracy (Abrams, who will miss this season because of his off-season knee injury), "We want to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday."
    And the coach is excited about blending in nine newcomers into the rotation, saying no school in the country has nine newcomers on their squad this year.  Those nine newcomers are among the 15 players he has on the squad, that include two freshmen--Michael Finke and Leron Black.
    He also has the two transfers eligible to play this season--Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby.  They are, in addition, to the five sophomores returning--Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Colbert and Maverick Morgan.
    The coach exuded praise over senior Nnanna Egwu and his play throughout the summer and so far during these early practices. 
    I was attended Groce's Thursday afternoon news conference and will have more from it in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune. 
 
    
Conlin to Leave Raiders
At End of Grid Season
 
     Since 1981 when he was 21 years old and a young assistant coach at Arcola, Mike Conlin has been around prep football which has given him much pleasure, including the time he's spent at Central A&M since 1998 when Mark Ramsey gave him the opportunity to join his staff.
     Conlin is leaving Central A&M at the end of this season to begin work in the agriculture industry with a formal announcement on where that is coming later this month when he joins the company on Monday, Oct. 27th.  One highlight of his football coaching career came when the Raiders played in the state championship in 2001.
     As well as serving as former coach Ramsey's assistant and now Nate Graham's staff, Conlin became the high school's athletic director in 2002.
     He's served in education for more than 30 years.
     I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.


J. Thomas McNamara
Sports Editor
Decatur Tribune

Email Tom at JThomasMc@aol.com

Check out McNamara's "Irish Stew" every week in the print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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