So good they're scary, SJO volleyball team wins regional title

St. Joseph-Ogden wins regional volleyball title
Right to left: Emily Bigger, Katelyn Berry, Jenna Albrecht and Rylee Stahl step forward to receive St. Joseph-Ogden's regional championship plaque from Oakwood principal Tim Lee after defeating Monticello, 2-0. The Spartans advance to the Watseka sectional semifinal on Monday to face Seneca in the 6pm match. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

#TBT: Spartans shut the book on Williamsville's class 3A title run

Ryan Koss, Wesley Kibler and Nick Poe Saturday, the St. Joseph-Ogden football team will meet Williamsville in the IHSA postseason for the second time in the Class 3A playoffs. This week's Throwback Thursday feature is a look back at their first meeting back on November 16 in 2013, when the Spartans defeated Williamsville in the quarterfinal matchup on their home turf, 38-26. In the photo above, SJO's Ryan Koss (54), Wesley Kibler (51) and Nick Poe (32) run through the team banner during team introductions. The trio, just a small part of the hard-hitting, determined Spartan team that season that went on to play in the state title game that season.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Quarterback Dalton Walsh makes a pass Quarterback Dalton Walsh makes a short pass in the second half. The Spartans notched their first quarterfinal victory since 2006. The team advanced a semifinal road game in Greenville on the following Saturday. This Saturday, Walsh hopes to earn a second win against the Bullets, this time as one of SJO's assistant coaches. See more photos from this week's Throwback Thursday here . . .

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Left: Kicking it into high gear, St. Joseph-Ogden's Orion Ciota runs the football for second half touchdown. Follow this link to see more photos from Ciota's football career at SJO. Right: St. Joseph-Ogden fans packed the stadium for the Williamsville. Despite a light drizzle during parts of the game, the majority of loyal fans hung around to watch the Spartans celebrate their quarterfinal win on Saturday. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Seth Griswell and Nolan Woller Linemen Seth Griswell and Nolan Woller provide an impenetrable wall on a pass play to protect their quarterback from Bullets defender Nathan Jerome. See more photos of Griswell here and more of Woller here.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

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SJO fans cheer for their team Despite chilly temperatures and drizzle, hundreds of St. Joseph-Ogden fans were on hand to watch the Spartans win their quarterfinal football game. An equally as large of group of fans made the trip the following weekend to the semifinal game in Greenville.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Loyal SJO fans cheer for their team Hunter Hart celebrates SJO TD
Left: Student fans were loud in their support for the Spartans. Here, Maroon Platoon members rally behind their team. Right:Hunter Hart celebrates another touchdown for his team in the second half. The receive made key catches in the game to help SJO march the ball down the field. A three-sport athlete, Hart continued his athletic career at the college level playing baseball. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Jordan Hartman gets a sack
The Williamsville quarterback rolls to the ground after being sacked by Spartan linebacker Jordan Hartman in the second quarter. The St. Joseph-Ogden defense was relentless and unyielding in their contribution to the playoff win. The Spartans improved to 10-2 on the season after the victory. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Jacob Buoy congratulates teammate Dylan Koss Jacob Buoy congratulates teammate Dylan Koss as the final 15 seconds tick off the game clock. Buoy, who suffered a season-ending injury, was on the sidelines assisting whenever necessary in Saturday night's home game. See more photos from this game here. . . (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

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Spartans volleyball team aces postseason win over Oakwood

The St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team opened their postseason play with an unusual victory on Tuesday. The Spartans served 16 aces across two short games to beat regional host Oakwood, 2-0.

Emily Bigger serves up an ace
Emily Bigger serves one of her nine aces against the Comets in the St. Joseph-Ogden High School's regional volleyball game on Tuesday. The Spartans won 2-0 and advance to Thursday's title game against Monticello. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
In the opening set, the Spartans tallied the first 17 points largely thanks to the serving prowess of senior Emily Bigger. The setter served 17 unanswered points before Oakwood finally lit up the board with a tipped ball.

"I didn't feel nervous. I was pretty confident," Bigger replied when asked if she experienced any stress from having to serve as many points as she did. "I just had to get the ball over the net."

Tuesday wasn't the first time in Bigger's volleyball career that she serve a high number consecutive service points. In a junior high game against Schlarman years ago, she vividly remember serving all 25 points.

"It takes a lot of mental toughness for Emily to stay back there that long," said head coach Abby McDonald. "It was a good start."

Nine of the 16 aces were courtesy of Bigger. Rylee Stahl had four, Kennedi Burnett added two and Lindsey Aden chipped in one for good measure.

After the Comets scored their first point at 17-1, the Spartans took advantage of the next side out to go on a five-point mini run advancing the count to 22-1. SJO casually allowed four more points to take the first set, 25-5.

The second set featured much longer rallies that kept the Comets back up against the wall from the opening point. St. Joseph-Ogden jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never had look over their shoulder once on the way to a 25-8 finish.

"Our kids kept fighting and stayed rather stable to the end," said McDonald, who watched her team pound 24 kills. "We are playing really complete volleyball right now."

Burnett, a sophomore, led all hitters with nine kills and five digs. Payton Vallee lumped on another six. Katelyn Berry had six.

"This time of year brings out a different level of play," McDonald said. She likes the level of cohesiveness that her team is bringing to the floor. "They are really dialed in right now."

Bigger is eager to play for the title on Thursday.

"I feel like our bond is stronger than any other team," she said. "We've worked just as hard as we can to get where we want to be in the end."

The Spartans will face Monticello in an Illini Prairie Conference rematch at 6pm on Thursday.

The Sages, who advanced to the championship game after escaping a 25-21, 32-30 scare from the Tuscola Warriors, dropped the final match of the regular season to the Spartans, 25-17, 25-19.

266 SJO students named to first quarter Honor Roll

On Tuesday, St. Joseph-0gden High School announced that 266 students earned Honor Roll status for their work during the first quarter of classes this academic year.

The senior class led in number of honors with 73 students achieving a 3.75 or higher average grade during the period. The sophomore and junior classes boast 42 high honor receipients, followed by the senior class with 41 honor roll students and the class of 2024 with 39.

Students named to the High Honors earned GPAs of 3.75 or higher on a 4.0 scale. Those attaining GPAs of 3.25 to 3.74 are recognized as Honor Roll students.

Freshmen High Honor Roll

McGwire Atwood, Kaytlyn Baker, Olivia Baltzell, Maddux Carter, Yamilka Casanova, Ariana Chambers, Cale Coursey, Aiden Cromwell, Zachary Dahman, Emily Elsbernd, Leah Finley, Joselyn Frerichs, Alex Funk, Kennedy Greer, Andrew Guelfi, Mikyla Haley, Maya Hewkin, Taylor Hug, Emily Jeffries, Cameran Kelley, Jacob Kern, Aaron Lane, Aidan McCorkle, Kyle Meccoli, Teagan Miller, Jacob Newman, Allegra Pearman, Ty Pence, Ellen Place, Jack Robertson, Kirsten Schaefer, Johanna Schmitz, Jack Setterdahl, Paige Siegmund, Trinity Tapia, Taylor Voorhees, Alayna Wagle, Mallory Wagner and Maggie Ward.

Freshmen Honor Roll

Hayden Henkelman, Tyler Burch, Canyon Alwes, Ethan Blackburn, Caleb Nemecz, Ava Northen, Peyton Jones, Carter Mabry, Emma Rydell, Sylvia Bills, Shayne Immke, Eleni Krall, Emma Ward, Abigail Dow, Collin Livesay, Haleigh Maddock, Jade Kelley, Blake Morgan, Alyssa Acton, William Page, Hunter Ketchum, Madison Adams, Isabel Sexton, Katharine Short, Katherine McDermott, Bryce Collins and Joseph Gherna.

Sophomore High Honor Roll

Addison Allen, Kailyn Anderson, Ella Armstrong, Madison Atwood, Abigail Behrens, Alanna Bensyl, Ella Besson, Andrew Beyers, Brandie Bowlin, Mara Burkhalter, Kennedi Burnett, Angela Chahine, Braden Clampitt, Anastasia Conerty, Deanna Cummins, Benjamin Cunningham, Sidney Davis, Zander Dressen, Ashley Eldridge, Jared Emmert, Hannah Fox, Mackenzie Fulk, Zella Fuqua, Brennan Haake, Liam Hamer, Lauren Harper, Claire Huffman, Payton Jacob, Ava Knap, Sophia McDade, Elijah Mock, Jessica Palmer, Hope Rajlich, JoLeena Reynolds, Kendra Riddle, Taryn Sexton, Alyssa Shoviak, Luke Stegall, Rebecca Steinbach, Mackenzie Trame, Ethan Vanliew and Taylor Wells.

Sophomore Honor Roll

Tyler Altenbaumer, Nicolas Anzelmo, Nolan Grindley, Alyssa Hamilton, Kailyn Ingram, KayLeigh Kamphaus, Alison Kearney, Olivia Klotz, Ashlyn Lannert, Jacey Lewis, Wyatt Loghry, Madelyn Mabry, Kelsey Martlage, Ava Meyer, Ava Miller, Coby Miller, Conrad Miller, Jett Morris, Keaton Nolan, Emma Parkinson, Jackson Place, Jonathan Poulter, Griffin Roesch, Colton Thompsen and Elijah Weinmann.

Junior High Honor Roll

Isabelle Brooks, Crayton Burnett, David Bytnar, Taylor Campbell, Kylie Duckett, Hanna Eastin, Nadirah Edwards, Emily Fisher, Dakota Franzen, Emily Froman, Isabella Getty, Atleigh Hamilton, Mariska Harshbarger, Emmyrson Houston, Lukas Hutcherson, Logan Ingram, Vania Kaenzig, Cailer Kellenberger, Shelby Kofoot, Spencer Lahners, Aiden Livesay, Madigan Loman, Alyssa Maddock, Tyson Madsen, Sophia Martlage, Flannery McCorkle, Garren Meeker, Abigail Moberg, Samantha Naylor, Alec Painter, Erin Patton, Aidan Roberts, Indira Robinson, Mazie Ronk, Jackson Rydell, Evan Schmitz, Max Shonkwiler, Tessa Smith, Payton Vallee, Nora Walden, Brayden Wendt and Logan Wolfersberger.

Ashlyn Lannert Drew Corsey Rylee Stahl

SJO Honor Roll Students

Sam Wesley Katelyn Berry Trevon Carr

Junior Honor Roll

Mason Behrens, Hunter Brooks, Brady Buss, Rylee Clements, Raegan Crippen, Makayla Duckwitz, Jacob Dwyer, Britney Evans, Alexandra Frerichs, Lucas Funkhouser, Izabellah Innes, Ethan Lane, Alyssa Lynch, Brandon Mattsey, Gunnar Olson, Brianna Reifsteck, AJ Wagner and Rachel Wilson.

Senior High Honor Roll

Lindsey Aden, Jenna Albrecht, Mallory Ames, Kendall Ayers, Taylor Barnes, Katelyn Berry, Emily Bigger, Kaylee Blackburn, Ginny Bytnar, Payton Cain, Brendan Cooperider, Kristen Costa, Drew Coursey, Kathryn Cramer, Andrea Cunningham, Faith Dahman, Hannah Dukeman, Robert Gebbink, Samantha Gonzales, Payton Grimsley, Erica Guelfi, Emily Hardimon, Cody Johnston, Danielle Kelso, Ava Mills, Carson Mills, Allison Monk, Nolan Peacock, Taddy Pettit, Eric Poe, Hannah Rajlich, Jenna Schaefer, Joshua Sexton, Rylee Stahl, Kenly Taylor, Stephanie Trame, Isabelle Vliet, Brayden Weaver, Samuel Wesley, Zoey Witruk and Jackson Wooten.

Senior Honor Roll

Joseph Acton, Michara Allen, Kolton Batty, Hailey Birt, Samantha Blobaum, Ross Booker, Erin Bridgewater, Trevon Carr, Payton Clements, Blake Dable, Bailey Dowling, Asjah Fonner, Clayton Frederick, Jaiden Freeman, Brayden Grimsey, Lucas Grindley, Ethan Hinrichs, Conner Hodge, Chance Izard, Tyler Jones, Lacey Kaiser, Aubrey Kern, Eliza Lewis, Nathan Maier, Keegan McCarty, Mason McLain, Alivia Norem, Luke Renfrew, Lexi Ribbe, Anna Tranel, Anna Wentzloff and Karsyn Wetzel.

Adapt, improvise and they'll overcome, SJO can win on Saturday

Above: SJO senior Jordan Hartman celebrates his 12-yard tackle-for-a-loss on Williamsville during their 2013 home playoff game. The Spartans, after shutting out Monticello 35-0 in their second round game, won the contest after a thrilling 38-26 finish. The Spartans would win the next game and advance to the state title game in DeKalb against Stillman Valley. Below: Dylan Koss celebrates the Spartans' win with assistant coach Marshall Schacht. This weekend the pair will coach together hoping to beat the Bullets and advance to week 2 of the playoffs. (Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
By conventional wisdom, the #15 seeded St. Joseph-Ogden football team faces improbable odds of winning their first-round Class 3A game on the road this Saturday. Facing the undefeated #2 seed Williamsville at Paul Jenkins Field the Bullets have a high-powered offense that has produced touchdowns, lots of them, both on the ground and in the air all season long.

In their nine games so far, thanks to the efforts of two college caliber players and supportive cast of able-bodied linemen, the team averages an impressive 48 points/game.

Against Pittsfield (1-8) back on October 18, quarterback Connor McCormick went 10-for-10 in passing, good for 178 years and four touchdown. Williamsville ran the score up to win, 55-14.

The other marquee player the Spartans have to contain is Grant Ripperda. Listed at 5 feet 10 and 210 pounds, he was a state-qualifier in wrestling back in February and is quick enough at his size to run on 4x2 and 4x4 squads in track. In Williamsville's away contest at Auburn on September 13, Ripperda scored on a 6-yard run in the first quarter and he then preceded tack on three more TDs in the second. He finished the night out with 145 yards on 14 carries in Bullet's 34-17 victory.

In the same game, McCormick passed for 240 yards on a 15-for-22 effort and produced one touchdown during the regular season Sangamo Conference game.

The Spartans must also contend with a stingy defense that has held opposing offenses to two or less scores in seven of their nine regular season contests. North Mac (5-4) was able to break the barrier with three and Maroa-Forsyth (8-1) scored six times. In both cases, both teams suffered losses contributing to Williamsville's perfect season so far.

There is only one way to shutdown a versatile, high-powered high school offense like Williamsville. It's called a blizzard.

Remember 2015 semifinal game in Tolono when SJO had a similar offense, touting a 12-0 record, that would have easily advanced to the 3A title game had it not been for that unexpected, early season snowstorm with blizzard like conditions that put two inches of slush on the ground between the goal post at Hicks Field.

Page from the Big Picture's Blizzard Bowl edition

In 2015 when SJO faced the Unity Rockets on the road in the infamous Class 3A 'Blizzard Bowl' semifinal. See the Big Picture special edition from the game here . . . . (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

In more favorable conditions, the Spartans could have aired out the ball all day long against the Rockets had it not been for the sustained 20+ mph breeze out of the northwest. Freezing cold along with ankle deep muck made up of snow, wet grass and mud kept the SJO ground game in check. Throwing the ball against the variable wind direction and unexpected gusts, wasn't the answer.

Unity prevailed 30-8 in that contest ending the chance for St. Joseph-Ogden's first-ever back-to-back state championship game appearances.

That one hurt the Spartans, but Mama Nature has also been generous to SJO.

According to football alumnus Nathan Buss, St. Joseph-Ogden was #15 seed or so back during the 91-92 season. With the help of a blizzard on game day, the Spartans won their first-round game.

"We played Casey-Westfield at home," he said in a social media post. "They had to plow the out of bounds and 5-yard markers."

SJO narrowly won the game, 8-6.

"We had a punt return for a TD and a 2pt conversation," Buss wrote. "Didn’t have a lineman weighing over 200 pounds!!! Killer Dwarves !!! And a Sophomore QB! Hell of a year!!!"

After last Friday's loss to Monticello, head coach Shawn Skinner had a little trouble coming up with good things to say about the game. Despite that, he was happy that his team and coaching staff has one more game to prepare for this week.

"When the kids come in Monday, what they are going to understand is they are going to be excited and not going to have to leave with this being the last one they have in their mouth all off season," Skinner said last Friday. "They have another opportunity to fix this."

Short of divine interference from Mother Nature, the key to St. Joseph-Ogden advancing to the second round is playing smart, ball-control football.

"All we have to do is figure out how to go one and O next week," Skinner said. "That's what it's about. No matter who the matchup is we have another opportunity to play and that's good."

Brady Buss carries the ball for SJO during the Monticello game.
Brady Buss sheds one tackler and looks for more pasture while carrying the ball in the Spartans last regular season game for 2019. The Spartans (5-4) earned a first-round bid against 9-0 Williamsville. Game time is set for 1p on Saturday. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
There are four things Skinner & Co. need to reach that goal.

First, they can take a hint from Maroa-Forsyth (8-1), who nearly beat the Bullets in their week 4 game. The Trojans up on the scoreboard 41-37 late in the fourth quarter, the Bullets needed a score to win. With less than two minutes on the clock, they crafted a successful final drive for the go-ahead score and a 43-41 victory.

The takeaway is Maroa ran 71 plays and averaged seven yards per carry against the Bullets. If the Spartans can yield a little more than half that number, they will be in the position to hand out the upset the Trojans didn't. Pick up four yards per play, and SJO can be a close game.

That means coaches have to come up with some creative methods to keep the Williamsville's offense off the field and wear down their defense, which is stacked with a lot of one-way players. That won't be easy.

Jarrett Stevenson, Coby Miller and Keaton Nolan will have their work cut out for them on Saturday. However, if they can grind out those four yards on every play - nothing big, nothing fancy - they will set SJO up handsomely for the first playoff victory in the Skinner era.

Second, the offensive linemen need to become pesky gnats and force Williamsville defenders into longer engagements. The first two games of the season, SJO blocking was grade A. Opposing defenders were kept out of the play longer by Max Chatterton, Blake Dable and Conner Hodge. That allowed Stevenson to put up solid rushing numbers in those contests.

The O-line has to keep the Bullet defenders busy fighting them off longer. The 'bump and quit' will not create scoring opportunities for the SJO run or passing game. Blocking to the whistle will be key.

Third on the list, the Spartans need to capitalize on their strength as a team. St. Joseph-Ogden players are quick-thinkers, possess a combination of speed and strength, and are tenacious competitors.

The challenge for the coaching staff is to find a weakness in Williamsville's casings and exploit it using the talent they have. The bigger and strong guy doesn't win all the time. The odds are on their side, but usually it is the smarter - and there are some intelligent student-athletes at SJO, faster and most tenacious guy who wins. If coaches and can rapidly adapt, improvise and overcome as the game wears on, SJO could playing yet one more week.

Finally, the players on the sidelines must to feed the beasts on grass.

The surefire way to tell which team is going to win a football game, with 92.4% accuracy (that's the author's estimation and not exact science), is pay attention to the athletes not on the field. Players standing on the sidelines of really good teams are cheering for their teammates. They slapping pads, butting helmets and handing water when players come out. On E-V-E-R-Y play they are supplying their fellow beasts with a continuous flow of positive energy to get the job done. Those teams win almost every S-I-N-G-L-E time.

With playoff bid on the line, Spartans suffer road loss at Monticello

As head coach Shawn Skinner headed to the locker room Friday after the Spartans' 35-6 loss to Monticello, Glen Fisher, an ardent fan of SJO athletics and retired employee of the district, hoped to comfort head coach Shawn Skinner after Friday's game against Monticello.

"Dick Duval didn't start out that great," he said gently.

Duval, St. Joseph-Ogden's head coach football coach from 1988-2015, had a combined win-loss record of 29-15 his first four years at the helm. Five seasons later, his Spartans were playing 12+ games a seasons, make deep playoff runs for the next half a decade.

That probably didn't make Skinner, who is now 19-19 after Friday night's contest in his first four season, feel much better after the lackluster loss to the Class 3A defending state champions.

The Sages scored five times before the Spartans, courtesy of Jarrett Stevenson, put their only TD on the board in the final quarter of a game that held possible playoff implications depending results from other IHSA member schools.

Xander Rieches plays at tight end
Xander Rieches plays at tight end for the Spartans in their road game against Monticello. Despite the 29-point loss, SJO will play at least one more game this season in the Class 3A playoff bracket. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
"Early on we kind of were doing our job, but we weren't playing hard," Skinner said. "Then, we start playing hard, but weren't doing our job. Either way, that's a bad combination."

And, bad it was. Nothing good went the Spartans' way when they really need it.

Down 21-0 in the second quarter, Chance Izard pulled in a short pass from Crayton Burnett and ran toward the south endzone. Breaking four tackles along the way and sprinting down the east sideline, he put the ball over the goal line 60 or so yards from where he started. The celebration by players and fans was short-lived.

It was deja vu from the Prairie Central game two weeks earlier where every substantial play in SJO's favor was negated with a yellow hankie. And, just as in the road game the Hawks, the ball came back.

"I don't think we matched their intensity right away," said Skinner. "When we tried to react to their intensity, we lost all of our technique. We lost all of our assignments. We were trying to play hard, but we weren't doing our job."

Monticello's offense was fueled and supercharged by tailback Chris Brown. He exploited SJO's weaknesses as skillful as a brain surgeon.

The Sages' junior scored a touchdown in three of the four quarters and churned up 265 yards on 13 carries. The Spartans had a difficult containing him on the outside and his explosive burst caused missed tackles when took the ball between the tackles.

"There were glimmers on defense, but not nearly enough," said Skinner. "I thought Brodie Sullivan (and) Trevon Carr (played well). Drew Coursey continued to play really well. I thought Coby Miller stepped in at middle linebacker in the second half and did some nice things for us."

Trevon Carr wraps up Monticello ball carrier
Trevon Carr wraps up Monticello's quarterback Nick Tackels for a loss in the second half. The loss to the Sages wrapped up SJO's regular season at 5-4. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The Spartans entered the game without senior linebacker Brayden Weaver, who suffered a season-ending injury to a knee in an earlier game. Fellow senior and linebacker Sam Wesley admitted his presence was missed on the field.

"Some people don't know my sophomore year, I didn't play. I only came back my junior year because of Brayden Weaver," Wesley confessed. "It was definitely a big loss. People have stepped up. We got to keep playing."

Though not official until Saturday evening, Wesley was confident of a Class 3A playoff bid for his team.

Luke Renfrew stands up to block Monticello's Cooper Mitze
Luke Renfrew stands up to block Monticello's Cooper Mitze during second half action of the Illini Praire Conference finale. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
"We still have playoffs next week. We just have to come (in) and prepare (for it)," he said, happy that he will have the chance to play one more game. He was confident SJO will rebound from the loss. "We just have look at the film, make some adjustments and we will be alright."

Stevenson led the Spartans' offensive effort with 86 yards and 22 carries. His 9-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes to play avoided what would have been the second shutout this season.

With Weaver out, SJO enlisted their young guns and called on them to fill the senior's role at fullback. Sophomore Keaton Nolan picked 12 yards, collecting seven of those on his last touch. Meanwhile, Coby Miller chipped in an additional 15 yards.

"We had a good week of preparation and practice. I saw good things," Skinner remarked during his postgame interview from the 50 yard line before passing Fisher. "Yesterday, was one of the best Thursday practices we had this year. It just didn't translate into anything worthwhile."

Drew Coursey was clearly disappointed after the game.

"It's hard to take away any positives right now," he said. He focused more on the Sages' success than on SJO failures during his last regular season game. "Number 8 (Chris Brown) is fast and number 12 (Nic Tackels) is a good player. They played well."

Box Score
St. Joseph-Ogden   0 0 0 6   6
Monticello 14 7 7 7 35

Scoring by quarters
1st Quarter
MHS - C.Brown 14 yd run (Ellison kick)
MHS - Tackels 15 yd run (Ellison kick)

2nd Quarter
MHS - Kerr 10 yd pass from Tackels (Ellison kick)

3rd Quarter
MHS - C.Brown - 81 yd pass from Tackels (Ellison kick)

4th Quarter
MHS - C.Brown 49 yd run (Ellison kick)
SJO - Stevenson 14 yd run (pass failed)

SJO boys cross country squad takes 5th at regionals, advances to sectional on Saturday

Giving their all against the best small school running programs on this side of the state, the St. Joseph-Ogden boys cross country team did their best to prove their themselves worthy of the name Spartan. Competing under less than favorable weather conditions at the Class 1A cross country regional in Tuscola on Saturday, the team finished fifth overall.

Their collective effort resulted in extending their season yet another week in order to compete in the upcoming sectional meet in Effingham. The Spartans' top five runners finished with 97 points, two points away from what could have been a three-way tie score-wise with Paxton-Buckley-Loda and Unity, who tallied 95 points each.

This week, SJO runners will train with the goal of qualifying for this season's IHSA state meet at weekend's upcoming sectional for a spot in the IHSA state meet on November 9.

One of the first ten to cross the finish line in the boys race at last Saturday's regional race was SJO's Brandon Mattsey, who led the Spartan contingent in their fifth place finish. He turned in a time of 16:44 on the three-mile Wimple Park course in Tuscola. His career best three-mile time is 15:41.

Supporting Mattsey's effort, Eric Poe finished 14th overall at 17:03 and Charlie Mabry clocked in at 17:15 to earn 20 points for the team.

Here is how the Spartans finished at the 2019 Tuscola regional:

Runner Place Time
Brandon Mattsey (Jr.) 10 16:44
Eric Poe (Sr.) 14 17:03
Charlie Mabry (So.) 20 17:15
Elijah Mock (So.) 24 17:26
Luke Stegall (So.) 29 17:39
Braden Clampitt (So.) 35 18:02
Ethan Blackburn (Fr.) 43 18:39

Memory Monday: '06 Spartans win state softball title

Spartan pitcher Morgan Finn winds up for a pitch against Casey-Westfield back on June 3, 2006, in her team's second consecutive state final appearance. In the previous season, Finn, who was the number 2 pitcher, and the Spartans brought home a third place state trophy to place next to the program's first, a fourth place one from 1989 season. Using her uncanny placement and speed, Finn's pitching led St. Joseph-Ogden to a 1-0 to victory to win the first program's first IHSA state softball title. Dubbed underdogs at the start of the postseason, SJO gave up just one run in during their memorable run to the Class 1A title. See more photos from 2006 softball season here. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

second base player Stacy Ferguson hauls in a pop fly Illinois' most-winningest softball coach Randy Wolken
Left: On their way to winning the state title the Spartans took a few lumps during the 2006 season. One of them was a 3-1 loss at home against the Monticello Sages on April 27. Here Spartan second base player Stacy Ferguson hauls in a pop fly for an out. Right: Despite the loss to the Sages there was still a reason to celebrate, team co-captain Abby Williams presents coach Randy Wolken with a memento for achieving his 648th career win after defeating Mt. Zion on the previous Saturday. Wolken would go on to become and currently remains the only softball coach in the state of Illinois to achieve over 1,000 career victories. His coaching ended with an impressive career record of 1,044-242. What makes those numbers even more impressive is that record was acquired coaching for just one program. (Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Catcher Brittany Morgan catches a congratulatory kiss from her nephew Blake after the Spartans beat Westmont 1-0 to advance to the championship game against Casey-Westfield for the Class A softball title on June 3. It was through Morgan's RBI that put fellow senior Abby Williams across the plate in the first inning for the semifinal game winner. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Stacy Ferguson steals second Sarah Thompson scores winning run
Left: Stacy Ferguson slides into second base on a steal for the Spartans. Coming off a back-to-back doubleheader loss to Casey-Westfield, St. Joseph-Ogden beat crushed the Unity Rockets, 8-0 on April 21. Ferguson was safe on the play. Right: Sarah Thompson leaps in the air to celebrate scoring the first and only run in Spartans' title game against Casey-Westfield. After falling to the Warriors twice in a twin bill earlier in the season, SJO held on to win their first Class A softball title Saturday evening, 1-0. (Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The future queen of stolen bases in Illinois Lindsey Barron cheers for her team. SJO students cheer for their team after winning a state softball title
Left: Lindsey Barron gives a teammate a high-ten after Sarah Thompson scored a run for the Spartans. Two seasons later, Barron would break the state record in the number of stolen basis in a season with 92. Currently #2 on the IHSA list for career stolen bases, she took 254 extra bases while wearing the Spartan uniform from 2005-2008. Right: St. Joseph-Ogden students [left to right] Nick Krisman, Jesse Grice, and Mark Gones cheer for the school's softball team at the start of the awards ceremony. (Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

SJO goes crazy with state title win
Pandemonium. After the final out of the game frenzied chaos ensued as the members of St. Joseph-Ogden girls softball team celebrates their 1-0 win over Casey-Westfield. Screams of joy, laughter, non-stop hugs and tears consumed players, coaches, family members and fans prior to the start of the official awards ceremony. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

With teammate Stacy Buck all smiles beside here, St. Joseph-Ogden pitcher Morgan Finn wipes the non-stop tears of joy from her face as she and the member of the girls softball team receive their state first-place medals. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

2006 softball state champs pose for their official team photo
The St. Joseph-Ogden softball team poses with their state medals and the program's first state champion softball trophy. The Class 1A title winners finished the season with a record of 31-6. The title run followed the previous year's third-place finish and 32-4 finish. Since this season, the Spartans have made three additional state finals appearances in 2012, 2015 and 2017 bringing home second, third and fourth place trophies. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Girls XC advances to Effingham sectional meet

Despite cold conditions and wet, rainy conditions, the St. Joseph-Ogden girls cross county team finished in third place behind Monticello (first) and Unity (second) as one of seven teams advancing to next Saturday's Class 1A sectional in Effingham.

Hannah Rajlich running at the Spartan Classic.
Hannah Rajlich runs during the Spartan Classic in September. The all-conference runner did not compete in Saturday's regional race. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
The Spartans finished the meet just two points ahead of St. Thomas More with a score of 85 points in arguably the state's toughest small school sectional qualifier.

Led by senior Jillian Plotner, SJO's scoring runners completed the course at Wimple Park in a strong formation of 9, 16, 19, 20 and 21.

Plotner circumvented the course in 19 minutes and 10 seconds for a ninth place overall finish. Ashlyn Lannert was the next Spartan to cross the finish line 33 seconds later at 19:43. Two runners and five seconds later, Ava Knap locked up 19th place.

Malorie Sarnecki rounded out the top 20 finishers with a time of 19:54 with teammate Ally Monk one second behind her at 19:55.

Sophomores Addie Allen and Kailyn Ingram finished their races under the 21 minute mark.

Volleyball team revels in Senior Night victory

Emily Bigger and parents share an emotional moment during SJO's senior night
While her father Mark smiles holding one of her many mementos, Emily Bigger receives a kiss from her mother Melissa during SJO's senior night recognition on Tuesday prior to the start of volleyball team's final home match of the season. Bigger, a four-year volleyball veteran, is also involved in Spanish Club, FCA, National Honor Society and the school's Advisory Mentoring Program. She and eight other seniors received gifts and were thank for their contribution to program's success over the past four seasons. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Lindsey Aden went out in style at her last home volleyball game. The senior delivered three aces in St. Joseph-Ogden's 2-0 victory over the visiting Olympia Spartans on Tuesday night. Notching their tenth consecutive win, the the maroon and Columbia blue clad Spartans now enjoy an impressive 25-4 record as the end of the regular season draws close.

Katelyn Berry, one of nine seniors honored earlier during the senior night recognition ceremony, lead SJO with a match-high 10 kills. The four-year veteran was also credited with three digs.

"It's so weird, so sad honestly," said Berry, who was multitasking between processing the first of many milestones of her senior year and celebrating her team's victory. "It felt good to get the win."

It was nearly an even matchup for first half of set one until the home team blasted seven unanswered points to go up 18-11. After allowing their opponent six more points, SJO closed out the set with a down-the-line boomer from junior Kennedi Burnett for a 25-17 finish.

"We started off slow, but came back," Berry said, analyzing the initial set. "We need to work on starting out stronger."

In a mirrored start of the first set, SJO dropped the first point of the second and let Olympia take a 3-1 lead. They led the contest for just three of the next 20 exchanges until the score reached 10-all.

"We kept our composure," said head coach Abby McDonald, whose program improved to 7-1, second in the Illini Prairie Conference behind St. Thomas More. "We played a mature match and we made it count when we need to."

Calmly and self-assured, McDonald's team turned up the intensity collecting five points for every one they relinquished to the visiting Spartans. Olympia called a timeout at 19-12 hoping the break would shift the momentum back to their side of the court, but it was too late.

Brodie Sullivan leads fellow football players and volleyball fans in singing Sweet Caroline before the start of St. Joseph-Ogden's last home match of the season. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Senior Katelyn Berry puts the ball away for kill
Senior Katelyn Berry puts the ball away during set two of SJO's home match against Olympia. SJO play their final conference match of the season at Monticello Thursday and start their postseason campaign next Tuesday at Oakwood High School. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
The Spartans were playing in the zone. In their happy place, Berry along with Burnett and Stephanie Trame, registered four kills for the last eight points of the match sealing their Illini Prairie Conference win, 25-14.

Burnett finished the contest with five kills, seven digs and two aces for SJO. Jenna Albrecht added another four kills and Emily Bigger racked up 24 assists. Fellow senior Kenly Taylor contributed five digs and an ace in their home court finale.

Olympia's offense was lead by junior Abby Stine and Bella Dickhut with four kills each. Kaelyn Leverson, a senior, had 20 assists. The Spartans fall to 4-4 in the conference and 15-13 overall on the season.

St. Joseph-Ogden, who have lost just one road match out of 13 this season, squares off next at Monticello (19-13) in the last IPC match of the season. The Sages boast a 7-1 record on their home court going into tomorrow night's contest.

McDonald is eagerly looking forward to the match in Monticello and competing in the annual Mt. Pulaski tournament this weekend. SJO will face Mt. Zion and Illini Central in pool play on Saturday morning.

"I think this group plays much better on the road."

Great Value products recalled

Before you chow down on those sausage patties in the morning you might want to look at the label first.

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a statement that more than six thousand pounds of ready-to-eat pork sausage and turkey patty products produced in George's Prepared Foods' Caryville, Tennessee facility is subject to recall after a small quantity tested positive for Salmonella.

The contaminated product packaged under the Great Value brand name may have been distributed to Walmart Stores after their third-party cold storage facility inadvertently shipped the meat products.

If you purchased these items you are urged not to eat them and return it to the place of purchase for a refund or exchange, or thrown away immediately.

"FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers' refrigerators or freezers or both," the agency announced in Friday'statement. "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase." Here are the packaged goods recalled :

Product Name: Great Value Original Breakfast Turkey Patties 24.92oz
UPC: 0007874212373 Best If used By Date: 10/24/2019 EST Number: 2260T

Product Name: Great Value Fully Cooked Original Pork Sausage Patties 35.6oz
UPC: 0007874203062 Best If used By Date: 11/05/19 EST Number: 2260T

Product Name: Great Value Fully Cooked Original Pork Sausage Patties 35.6oz
UPC: 0007874203062 Best If used By Date: 11/03/19 EST Number: 2260T

Product Name: Great Value Original Pork Sausage Patties 24.9oz
UPC: 0007874202095 Best If used By Date: 10/16/19 EST Number: 2260T

Salmonella symptoms usually start 12 to 72 hours after the contaminate food has been eaten. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. While most people recover in four to seven days without treatment, death may occur with older people, infants, or those with compromised immune systems.

As of today there has not been any reported illness attributed to the listed products. George's issued a statement on their website confirming the recall.

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.

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 Follow this year's squad on Facebook at 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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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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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