Saturday, October 5, 2019

Bigger pounds 6 aces against BCC, Burnett lights up the floor with double-double

Payton Vallee goes up for a block
SJO's Payton Vallee goes up to block a kill attempt by Bloomington Central Catholic's Kate Moorman-Wolfe. Vallee had five kills against the Saints. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
A one-two combination comprised of Emily Bigger's serves and Kennedi Burnett's thunderous spikes was too much for the visiting Central Catholic (4-19 overall) volleyball team to handle. Thanks to the duo, the Spartan offense rolled to a 2-0 sweep over the Saints on Wednesday.

SJO dominated the opening set from the get-go. After dropping the first point, Bigger & Co. rattled of the nine unanswered points to take a 9-1 lead. It was a hole too deep for Central Catholic to recover from with the Spartan's hitters keeping the deficit at seven points or more the remainder of the set.

Up by 11 at 21-10, BCC would score one more point before the senior dominated squad closed out a brilliantly played set, 25-11.

The Spartans meticulously built a six-point lead after the first 14 points of the second set to go up, 10-4. The Saints, playing a much better defensive game, closed the gap to 11-8 and got within three points again at 12-9 before SJO's offense reignited.

After two unanswered points followed by a five-point run and then six unanswered points, SJO took commanding lead at 23-11. Three serves later the match was over ending the final set, 25-12.

Kennedi Burnett hits a down the line kill against BCC
Kennedi Burnett hits the ball down-the-line for one of her 10 kills. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


"I thought we played one of the best matches we've played all season," said head coach Abby McDonald, now three victories away from hitting the 300-win milestone. "They really embraced the changes we made this week and rose to the challenge."

Completely in the zone, Burnett collected a double-double with ten kills and ten digs. The senior also booked two of the team's four blocks. Classmate Katelyn Berry, hitting .467 for the evening, contributed eight kills and four digs to the cause.

Then there was Bigger. Outdoing her four-ace performance against Rantoul earlier in the week, she added another six to her career stats. The senior also had three digs and smashed a pair of kills on Saints.

Rounding out the total team effort, Payton Vallee was credited with five of the team's 31 kills in the conference win to help the Spartans pick up their 18th win of the season. Rylee Stahl, Kenly Taylor and Lacey Kaiser with three kills, each had five digs apiece.


Burnett leads St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball effort over Rantoul

Kennedi Burnett pounded a team-high 8 kills and delivered nine of St. Joseph-Ogden's 32 digs in their 25-16, 25-7 conference volleyball win over Rantoul earlier this week on Tuesday.

With the help of seniors Katelyn Berry and Payton Vallee, who contributed six kills in the match, the Spartans improve to 17-4 on the season. The victory also marks head coach Abby McDonald's 296th career coaching win.

The varsity volleyball campaign moves ahead with two road matches next week. The Spartans kickoff the week with a non-conference meeting at Tri-Valley on Monday and then travel to Tolono to face the 22-1 Unity Rockets.

Then, it is a pair of back-to-back home matches starting Thursday after Illinois High School Association reveals their postseason path to Redbird Arena. The seeding for this year's postseason play is scheduled to be announced by the IHSA at 4 pm on Thursday, October 10.

The Spartans host Pontiac on Thursday and IVC on Saturday in Illini Prairie Conference action at the end of the week.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Competitive cheerleading tryouts will be held October 28

Tryouts for the St. Joseph-Ogden competitive cheerleading team will be held on October 28 from 6 to 8pm at the high school. The Spartan cheer team is a coed team that cheers at all boys basketball games and will compete against other cheer squads from around the state hoping to win an Illinois High School Association state title.

SJO Cheerleaders
Cheerleaders help lead SJO fans in a cheer during a home game against Pleasant Plains in January. Spartan cheerleaders attended every game, home and on the road, to help keep team and fan morale high. Members selected for the competition squad also compete to qualify the state finals held in January. (Photo: PhotoNews Media Archives)


Head coach Jonathon Lackey says the he is looking for 12 to 16 students for the sideline team and seven to 12 for the competition team.

"As a coach I not only look for certain skills such as tumbling and stunting, I also look for someone who is driven," said Lackey. "I want cheerleaders who represent SJO in a positive manner, someone who will bring a great experience to games and events. Our top priority is to cheer games and support SJO athletics."

Lackey believes cheerleaders are important to the overall game experience and keep fans actively supporting players and the team throughout the season.

"It's our job to get the crowd involved to support the team. We bring a fun aspect to games," he said. "At games you need someone who is a leader to help get the crowd involved and excited, that's where we come in."

Keely McCorkle cheers during the Spartans' home game against Unity in January. Representing SJO in a positive manner is one of the roles cheerleaders have in addition to encouraging fans to show their support at games. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
The IHSA added a competitive cheerleading state series at the beginning of the 2005-06 academic year. St. Joseph-Ogden has qualified twice since then, once under the guidance of Nancy Olson in 2007 and last year under Lackey.

While training, performing and competing against elite teams from around the state, Lackey says cheerleaders serve a more significant role.

"I think it's also important to have a team that acts as ambassadors for the school in a positive manner," he explained. "That's where cheerleaders can succeed the most and become an important part of a game."

For more information contact Coach Lackey via email at lackeyj@sjo.k12.il.us. Follow this year's squad on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sjocheerleading/. Students interested in joining this year's squad can pick up tryout packets in the main office at the high school.

Seniors Plotner and Cain named Spartans of the Week



Week 5 Lady Spartan of the Week: Jillian Plotner


Harrier Jillian Plotner is Lady Spartan of the Week Last Saturday, Jillian Plotner ran the best race of her life. Not only did the senior lead SJO on course to third place award at their annual Spartan Classic, her time catapulted her into the St. Joseph-Ogden cross country program's all-time top ten runners in school history. Plotner finished seventh overall at 18:29 setting a new personal record and tying Sam Mabry's 2017 time also clocked at the Spartan Classic.

What is significant about her performance is the 46 seconds she shaved off her top time this season and the 40 seconds lopped off her previous PR of the nineteen minutes and nine seconds at last year's IHSA state cross country finals.

Honorable Mentions: Lindsey Aden (volleyball), Lacey Kaiser (volleyball), Ava Knap (cross country), Sophia Martlage (soccer), Hannah Rajlich (cross country), and Rylee Stahl (volleyball).



Week 5 Spartan of the Week: Payton Cain


Payton Cain earned this week's honors after fielding a punt during last Friday's homecoming game against Pontiac and running it 68 yards to give the Spartans a 13-0 lead in the first half. In the photo on the below, Cain turns on the speed on his way to his first TD of the season.

Cain has made an impact on special teams. He has accumulated 91 yards on punt return and 19 on kickoff returns so far this season.

The Sentinel caught up with him at a recent photo shoot at the high school and asked him a few questions.

Sentinel: What's you're go-to pre-game meal?
Cain: Spaghetti.


Sentinel: What is your favorite movie right now?
Cain: All The Fast & The Furious movies.


Sentinel: What's your dream job?
Cain: I don't know... Owning a business in Florida.


Sentinel: If you could have one meal with anybody, who would it be?
Cain: Michael Jordan ... scratch that. Walter Payton.


Sentinel: Who on the team makes you laugh the most?
Cain: Chance Izard!


Sentinel: What do you like about St. Joseph-Ogden High School?
Cain: The environment. The school, classrooms and sports, it's all awesome.


Honorable Mentions: Brady Buss (football), Luke Cohen (soccer), Alex Funk (football), Brayden Grimsey (soccer), Logan Ingram (soccer), Brandon Mattsey (cross country), Caleb Nemecz (football), Zac Seeley (soccer), and Brayden Weaver (football).



Previous Spartans of the Week

Week 1: Jarrett Stevenson / Katelyn Berry
Week 2: Emily Elsbernd / Jaden Weaver
Week 3: Drew Coursey / Hannah Rajlich
Week 4: Emily Bigger / Hunter Ketchum


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Attention high school coaches: Help us recognize our area prep athletes each week. Please send game scores and stats to us for freshman and junior varsity as well as varsity games. Send game, race and match results and weekly stats to sports@oursentinel.com.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Ingram boots winner in conference battle against Unity



Sports Book: October 1
Logan Ingram dribbles ball in Monticello game.
Logan Ingram dribbles the ball during the Spartans' home match against Monticello. The junior notched his first goal of the season in SJO's match against visiting Unity on Tuesday. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


It's birthday and he'll score if he wants to ...

Usually, the birthday boy gets a gift. On Tuesday, Logan Ingram did the reverse and celebrated his birthday on the pitch by hitting a goal with just two minutes left in an otherwise scoreless contest against the Unity Rockets. The junior's present gave the St. Joseph-Ogden (4-12-2) soccer team their first conference victory of the season.

The Spartans next match is on the road this Saturday against Warrensburg-Latham. Match time is scheduled for 2pm.

The goal was the fifth goal of his prep soccer career.



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Attention high school and junior high coaches: Please send game scores and stats to us. Send results and weekly stats to sports@oursentinel.com.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Bigger plays tall in SJO volleyball road win, SJO soccer takes another lump



Sports Book: September 30


Spartans hammer 18 kills on host Falcons
Emily Bigger play a sweat hand on Monday serving up four aces in St. Joseph-Ogden's 25-9, 25-10 win on the road against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. The senior setter was credited with 20 assists and chipped in seven digs.

The Spartan used a balanced offensive assault with Katelyn Berry, Kennedi Burnett and Payton Vallee, all collecting six kills apiece. Burnett also had six digs.



Soccer team drops tough one
Hunter Ketchum had four saves in SJO's 1-0 loss to Judah Christian. The only ball that made it past him was a shot from the Tribe's Bobby Rodriquez with 16 minutes to play in the second half.

The Spartans host Unity tomorrow in an Illini Prairie Conference rivalry game at 4:30p.



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Attention high school and junior high coaches: Please send game scores and stats to us. Send results and weekly stats to sports@oursentinel.com.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Memory Monday: 2007 football title run ends a step away

SJO fans fill the stands
St. Joseph fans fill the stands and every available spot along the fence line for the 2007 semifinal playoff game against Plano on November 10, 2007. Fifty-one weeks earlier the two teams clashed in a record-setting IHSA Class 3A title game, where the Reapers came out on top in a thriller, 47-42. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Tailgating at St Joseph-Ogden High School
Left: St. Joseph-Ogden fan Connie Bickers enjoys the SJO tailgate before the game. Right: Hundreds of family and fans tailgate in the parking lot before kickoff of St. Joseph-Ogden's home semi-final against the Plano Reapers. See more memorable moments captured from the game here: 2007 St. Joseph-Ogden vs Plano Football Playoff Game. Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

The journey in 2007



Robinson, 41-0
Salt Fork Coop, 41-6
Momence, 46-14
Clifton Central, 42-20
Iroquois West, 49-12
St. Thomas More, 28-0
Watseka, 53-13
Tri-Point, 1-0
Paxton-Buckley-Loda, 68-0
Christian Life, 45-7
Wilmington, 26-7
Plano, 22-26
Members of the SJO Dance team preform before the start of the game. They also performed again during the halftime show during the postseason game. Click here to view more photos St. Joseph-Ogden's competitive dance team. PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

SJO concession stand
Longtime St. Joseph-Ogden resident and sports fan Dick Sumption places an order at the concession stand with Andi Morgan before the start of the game. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Spartan defenders Michael Bialeschki, Michael Cessna and Lukas Graves wrap up Plano's Luis Alvarado in first half action of their game. The trio, who suffered just two losses in the two consecutive seasons of SJO football, had an impressive varsity win-loss record of 25-2. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Tyler Johnson hands off the ball to Will Lindsey Lukas Graves makes a TD catch
Left: Tyler "Hollywood" Johnson hands off the ball to Will "The Flash" Lindsey. (Side bar: Covering the team and interviewing some of the players for ten plus weeks, I could help but to give these gifted athletes nicknames. Lindsey, the fastest runner on the team and track state-qualifier in the sprint events, earned his sobriquet obviously because of his explosive speed. Every post-game interview Johnson, a three-sport athlete, was like covering a Hollywood press conference. Cool, confident and a faster thinker on his feet with the sharpest curve ball questions, he never failed to deliver a great quote after a game.)

Right: Senior Lukas Graves make an over the shoulder catch on a pass from Tyler Johnson in first quarter action against the Reapers. In the 2006 title game against Plano, then a junior, he made nine catches for 211 yards. As of today, Graves is still tied for number one for the most number of catches and number of touchdowns (2) in an IHSA Class 3A championship game. His receiving yard total to this day, twelve years later, is still a 3A best. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Dick Duval
Head coach Dick Duval heads back to the field to start the second half against Plano. Though the Spartans would later come up heartrendingly short on the scoreboard, looking back from that day for the past four years, SJO under Duval's tutelege suffered just five losses in the 50 games the program played during that period. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Student fans cheer for their team Nick Rogiers heads to the line of scrimmage
Left: Student fans cheer for the Spartans during the second half of the game. Right: Nick Rogiers heads to the line of scrimmage in the second half for the next play. The defensive end was one of the hardest hitting tacklers on the field that season. Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Jake Oltean reacts after the game
Game over. Season over. Manager Jake Oltean reacts in silence after his Spartan football falls 26-22 loss to the Reapers. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Cheerleaders shed tears
Two cheerleaders share a hug in solace after the emotional loss while players from both teams shake hands at the 50 yard line. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Eli Marlow
Eli Marlow hugs a fellow player after the Spartans season ending loss, just one touchdown away from playing in a second consecutive state football championship game. See more photos from this emotional game by clicking here. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks



Sunday, September 29, 2019

Not quite yet, volleyball team misses op to beat STM

Setter Emily Bigger celebrates a point with teammates against St. Thomas More
Emily Bigger celebrates a point for the Spartans in their home match against St. Thomas More last Thursday. Bigger contributed 32 assists in the 2-1 conference loss. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

The atmosphere was electric in the main gym at St. Joseph-Ogden High School where the Spartan volleyball team faced conference rival St. Thomas More last Thursday. After an intense three-set battle, SJO fell in 2-1 decision to the visiting Sabers.

Leading by as many as five points near the mid point of the first set, The Spartans let St. Thomas clawed their way back into the contest to first an 18-all and again later at 21-all. The Spartans then won the next five points in a dominating fashion to take the set, 25-21.

"We knew what to expect because we have been watching film of them," said Lacey Kaiser. The senior contributed eight kills, seven digs and a pair of blocks over the course of the night. "We knew they would come out twice as hard in the second set after we won the first set."

After winning the first point in the second set, it would be the last time Kaiser and the Spartans, despite a monumental effort on their part, would see anything resembling a lead on the scoreboard for the remainder of the match.

"The second set, we really rallied back and fought," Kaiser said. "We haven't really shown that in past games we've played."

Kennedi Burnett, who echoed Kaiser on the team's strides to improved their mental toughness, led the Spartans with 13 kills. She was also credited with eight digs in the three-setter.

"We didn't let up," Burnett said, talking about how the team has been worked toward staying focused when things are not going their way on the court. "We have been working as a team to get back up."

Spartan head coach Abby McDonald said the team has shown growth since the season started, especially when the match momentum was against them in big games like this one against St. Thomas More.

"I didn't feel like we stayed in the match mentally," she said about her team's performance against the Sabers. There were some mental breakdowns that STM capitalized on. "We still have those moments, but it is much better (now). We keep saying it doesn't have to be our best yet."

SJO's Stephanie Trame slams the ball for a kill over the middle
Middle Stephanie Trame goes up to put the ball away against the Sabers. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

The Spartans used well-placed tips and scrappy play to stay within striking position to reverse the score. Up by one at 12-11, STM engineered a six point run to go up 18-11. Not willing to going down without a fight, SJO rallied back to a three-point deficit at 23-20 before St. Thomas More closed out the set at 25-20.

"Their offense got going and we really didn't have an answer for it," McDonald said in evaluating the difference in the way her team played in the first set as opposed to the second. Mostly it came down to STM getting the ball to sophomore Anna Mcclure to put away. "We didn't have an answer on defense."

By the third set, St. Thomas More hit their stride mentally and emotionally and never once let Burnett or teammate Katelyn Berry, who chipped ten kills of her own for the Spartans, bully their way past them.

St. Thomas More led by as many six points before Berry and Kaiser's perseverance at the net paid off and pulling SJO within two points of taking the lead in the final set at 21-20. Their momentum stalled and St. Thomas More took the final set, 25-20.

Overall, McDonald was happy with how the team performed.

"I think the kids did a nice job of trying to stay in it," McDonald said. "I feel like they (STM) had more weapons on offense."

Hazardous waste collection day set

Have bottles of unused, out-of-date or unneeded automotive fluids or other hazardous chemicals in your basement or garage? Online registration for the fall Illinois EPA-Sponsored One-Day Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event in Champaign County is now open so you can dispose of them safely at the end of October.

Preregistration online is required for drop-offs. As of the time of publishing this article, openings for 11:15am to 2:45pm appointments were available. The one-day event will be held at a designated Market Place Mall parking lot between 8am and 3pm on October 26.

Allowable chemicals and items include chemical cleaners, oil-based paints, thinners, antifreeze, motor oil, gasoline, kerosene, weed killers, insecticides and pesticides, old or outdated medication, lead-acid batteries, and similar hazardous household products. Fluorescent and other high-intensity discharge lamps will also be welcomed at the collection site.

Items that will not be accepted include latex paint, explosives, propane tanks, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, agricultural chemicals and business wastes. A complete list of household hazardous waste that will or will not be accepted is here: https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/waste-disposal/household-hazardous-waste/Pages/acceptable-wastes.aspx.

For more information about the Champaign County collection day or register before it is too late, visit https://hhwevent.simplybook.me/v2/

Wow! 42% of the student body earned academic letters at SJO

While St. Joseph-Ogden High School may be known outside of the community for its competitive prowess in sports like softball, baseball and football, all which receive a healthy dose of media attention through out the year, the student population is equally impressive when it comes to their studies and classroom pursuit.

Friday morning, SJO held an awards ceremony to recognize current students and May graduates from the Class of 2019 for their academic performance during the 2018-19 school year.

Students in the Maroon Platoon cheer during homecoming
SJO students cheer for the football team at Friday's homecoming game against Pontiac. Despite a rigorous academic standards and plenty of opportunities for extracurricular activities, nearly half of the student population at the high school enjoys a GPA of 3.6 or better. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


One hundred and ninety-one individuals from last year's student body of 452 earned an academic letter. When you do the math, that is a remarkable number statistically and even more so when you compare it to other public schools not only in the area, but around the state.

"(It) means 42% of our students earned at least a 3.6 GPA for the entire school year, had no D or F’s, and was enrolled in at least five academic classes," said Principal Gary Page, III, in his address to students, parents and family members in attendance at an all-school assembly. "To put that in perspective if a student takes six academic classes they need an A in four classes and at least a B in the other two to achieve a 3.6."

Noting that the majority of the students are involved in two or more extracurricular pursuits like the performing arts, FFA or are multi-sport athletes, the number of students receiving an academic letter is certainly impressive.

"When you combine that statistic with our high standards for classroom rigor it screams excellence," Page said, proud of the accomplishment made by not only the students who earned the awards, but also the teachers and staff who work hard to create an environment of high expectations. "There is no substitute for showing up and working hard when it comes to success."

Below is a list of this year's academic letter winners by class.

Class of 2019 • Graduates

Gage Atwood, Cassidy Bagby, Erin Beyers, Kaylee Blanchard, Joel Branson, Rebecca Campbell, Kayla Canas, Daniel Carlson, Sarah Chahine, Peyton Crowe, David Cummins, Emmy Daniels, Liam Davis, Abigail Dunham, Avery Edwards, Nathan Emmert, Emory Ericksen, Jasmine Febus, Michael Foreman, Emilie Fox, Cole Franzen, Adam Frerichs, Rachel Gherna, Mikayla Harshbarger, Kaitlyn Hess, Zach Hill, Kalli Ingram, Kenneth Lahners, Hannah Lewis, Nathan Logan, Erinn Miller, Caroline Moore, Eve Owens, Angela Palmer, Ben Reitmeier, Adam Rose, Madison Rubin, Abigail Schlueter, Elizabeth Schluter, Samantha Schmidt, Ben Setterdahl, Jacob Shaw, Kaitlin Shoviak, Grant Siegmund, Rylee Sjuts, Brianna Suits, Maclayne Taylor, and Nathan Walden.

Class of 2020 • Seniors

Lindsey Aden, Jenna Albrecht, Mallory Ames, Taylor Barnes, Katelyn Berry, Emily Bigger, Kaylee Blackburn, Erin Bridgewater, Ginny Bytnar, Payton Cain, Trevon Carr, Kristen Costa, Drew Coursey, Kathryn Cramer, Andrea Cunningham, Faith Dahman, Hannah Dukeman, Asjah Fonner, Jaiden Freeman, Robert Gebbink, Payton Grimsley, Lucas Grindley, Erica Guelfi, Emily Hardimon, Ethan Hinrichs, Chance Izard, Cody Johnston, Lacey Kaiser, Danielle Kelso, Nathan Maier, Ava Mills, Carson Mills, Alivia Norem, Nolan Peacock, Taddy Pettit, Eric Poe, Hannah Rajlich, Lexi Ribbe, Jenna Schaefer, Joshua Sexton, Rylee Stahl, Kenly Taylor, Stephanie Trame, Anna Tranel, Isabelle Vliet, Brayden Weaver, Sam Wesley, Zoey Witruk, and Jackson Wooten.

Class of 2021 • Juniors

Isabelle Brooks, Crayton Burnett, Josh Buttjer, David Bytnar, Taylor Campbell, Kylie Duckett, Hanna Eastin, Nadirah Edwards, Emily Fisher, Dakota Franzen, Alexandra Frerichs, Emily Froman, Atleigh Hamilton, Emmy Houston, Lukas Hutcherson, Logan Ingram, Cailer Kellenberger, Shelby Kofoot, Spencer Lahners, Ethan Lane, Aiden Livesay, Alyssa Maddock, Tyson Madsen, Sophia Martlage, Flannery McCorkle, Garren Meeker, Abigail Moberg, Samantha Naylor, Alec Painter, Erin Patton, Aidan Roberts, Indira Robinson, Mazie Ronk, Evan Schmitz, Max Shonkwiler, Tessa Smith, Payton Vallee, Nora Walden, Brayden Wendt, Rachel Wilson, and Logan Wolfersberger.

Class of 2022 • Sophomores

Addison Allen, Tyler Altenbaumer, Kailyn Anderson, Ella Armstrong, Madison Atwood, Abigail Behrens, Ella Besson, Andrew Beyers, Brandie Bowlin, Mara Burkhalter, Kennedi Burnett, Angela Chahine, Braden Clampitt, Anastasia Conerty, Deanna Cummins, Ben Cunningham, Sidney Davis, Zander Dressen, Ashley Eldridge, Jared Emmert, Hannah Fox, Zella Fuqua, Avian Gerdes, Brennan Haake, Liam Hamer, Lauren Harper, Claire Huffman, Payton Jacob, Alison Kearney, Ava Knap, Kelsey Martlage, Sophia McDade, Conrad Miller, Coby Miller, Elijah Mock, Jett Morris, Keaton Nolan, Jessica Palmer, Emma Parkinson, Hope Rajlich, JoLeena Reynolds, Kendra Riddle, Taryn Sexton, Alyssa Shoviak, Luke Stegall, Rebecca Steinbach, Mackenzie Trame, Ethan Vanliew, and Taylor Wells .

Homecoming success! Spartans shutout Indians

After the final horn sounded, the Spartan football team along with student fans and cheerleaders celebrated their homecoming victory reciting, with enthusiasm, the school song. St. Joseph-Ogden picked up win number four after beating the Pontiac Indians 19-0 on Friday.

The shutout was the first for SJO since joining the Illini Prairie Conference. The last time the Spartans recorded one was nearly three years ago in a 44-0 rout over Rantoul on September 30 back in 2016. It was also the first time since their conference alliance St. Joseph-Ogden walked away from one of their gridiron confrontation with the Indians, who by the way led the series 2-0 until this weekend, victorious.

Spartan running back Brayden Weaver is wrapped up by Pontiac's Kodi Davis and Payton Cramer during on of his three touches against the Indians. Weaver was limited to 12 yards on the ground and 1-yard catch on Friday. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


The St. Joseph-Ogden defense rained havoc on the Indians (1-4), who started three freshman on the offensive line due to early season injuries to veteran players. Offensively, the defensive unit held the visitors to just 145 yards on the ground and an even 100 in the air.

"I think our defense is really starting to figure it out," said head coach Shawn Skinner. "They play well together. They play hard. Coach (Bob) Glazier does a great job with them."

Heading into week six, St. Joseph-Ogden has the second best defense in the league allowing just 43 points. Unity remains number one with 24.

"We've kind of figured out what our identity is," Skinner said. "We are a pretty good defensive team and we have guys who can make plays on special teams. We've got to some how, some way, shore up our offense."

He added: "We've got to do a better job on the offensive side of paying attention to detail."

SJO's offensive effort started off with a bang.


He is an electric kid. He can make plays. You saw his speed."
~ Head coach Shawn Skinner


The Spartans lit their half the scoreboard the earliest they have all season when Crayton Burnett unloaded floater into the outstretched arms of Brady Buss for 62-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was good, giving SJO a 7-0 lead with the elapse of just a minute and 37 seconds off the play clock.

Other than a couple of flashes of greatness, the offense stuttered and sputtered the rest of the evening.

"We made that big play at the beginning of the game, (then) our passing game kind of slowed down a little bit," said Burnett, who connected on seven of his 18 pass attempts for 120 yards. "I just got to hit my open receivers when I can."

Friday night's offensive potency is stark contrast from the season opener with St. Thomas More and the following game against Rantoul where SJO posted 24 first downs against the Sabers and 20 on the road against the Eagles. For the second consecutive week, the Spartans was held to just eight first downs the entire game.

Not satisfied and confident that his team will work toward play at their potential, Burnett added: "Once we can get our offense to the level we want it to be, we can be really good."
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Racing past a pair of Pontiac defenders, Brady Buss makes a 68-yard touchdown run on a punt return electrifying Spartan fans and giving his team a 13-0 advantage.



St. Joseph-Ogden put another six on the board after forcing Pontiac to punt the ball away early in the second quarter. Brady Buss hauled the ball in and zipped down the visitor's sidelines for a 68-yard touchdown.

"He is an electric kid. He can make plays. You saw his speed," Skinner said. He praised his special teams coach for moving Buss into one of the two return slots. "Coach (Marshall) Schacht made that move two weeks ago. It was a great move by him. He is a threat for us."

The extra point attempt failed giving the Spartans a precarious 13-0 lead at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, the St. Joseph-Ogden offense marched the ball down the field in the fourth setting up a 4-yard touchdown courtesy of Jarrett Stevenson.

In his first game back after a two-week recover from an injury sustained against the Rantoul Eagles, Stevenson added 52 yards to bring his season rushing total to 324. He was happy to be back in pads and contributing.

"It's incredible stepping back on here with my brothers," he said. "It's great."

However, Stevenson was brutally honest about his performance in the first half.

"I played the worse first half of my life," he said. "I came back in the second half and enjoyed myself. I was able to run and get off that rust that I had."

Improving to 4-1, SJO needs just one more win to be playoff eligible for an at-large bid and another to guarantee themselves a spot in the IHSA postseason. Next Friday's road game at Prairie Central is critical in that regard and the coaching staff impressed upon the players the importance of practice in the week ahead.

The path to the playoff presents bigger obstacles on the Spartans' schedule after this Friday. IVC, undefeated at 5-0, and Monticello, last year's Class 3A state champions and in three-way tie for second in the conference with SJO and Unity, stand in the way.

But first, the team will enjoy the weekend homecoming gaiety.

"It's a good feeling. (I) definitely feel good about this win and will enjoy it," said senior lineman Conner Hodge. "Come Monday (we're) ready to work."