Photo-of-the-Day: November 23, 2021

Cole Berry
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
St. Joseph-Ogden forward Cole Berry guards a Monticello player slashing his way into the paint during their game back on February 3, 2015. Berry and the Spartans won the home game, 70-50.

Spartans win season opener at tournament of champions, Pence drains 36

Washington -- The St. Joseph-Ogden boys basketball team claimed their first win of the season with a 63-52 win over the Denmark Vikings at the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions Tournament.

Ty Pence, who went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line, scored 36 points. The D1 recruit has offers from Illinois, Eastern Illinois University, Bradley and Illinois State also had eight rebounds.

Logan Smith, who was the leading scorer after the first quarter, contributed 10 points to the team effort. Meanwhile, Evan Ingram hit a pair of treys in the first quarter to finish with six points.

The Spartans led at 37-28 at the half and outscored the Vikings 26-24 after the break.

SJO returns to action next week at the Toyota of Danville Classic with tournament games against Cissna Park Park on Tuesday and then tipping off with Oakwood on Wednesday evening. After a day of rest, St. Joseph-Ogden will play Schlarman for its last pool-play contest. All eight teams will play on Saturday for their various places in the final standings.

Cobb leads Urbana scoring effort in loss

Washington -- Kevin Cobb led the Tigers with a team-high 15 points at the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions game against St. Rita. His effort wasn't enough to lift Urbana over St. Rita in the team's 76-47 loss on Tuesday.

St. Joseph-Ogden girls suffer first loss of the season

St Joseph -- The SJO girls' basketball team dropped their first game of the season 50-41 to visiting Paris.

The Spartans (3-1) trailed 17-4 at the end of the opening quarter in their first non-tournament home game on Tuesday. Behind Paris' Madyson Rigdon's 13 points in the first half, the Tigers widened the scoring gap by 22 points in the second quarter.

St. Joseph-Ogden started digging their way out of the huge deficit on the scoreboard much too late. Peyton Jones (5 points) got the team within striking distance in the third quarter closing the gap to seven points. A plethora of missed shots combined with the Tigers' effort to stall and run down the clock didn't limit the Spartans' scoring opportunities.

Starter Ella Armstrong finished the game with 16 points. Payton Jacob delivered eight points in the fourth quarter to collect 13 total in the loss. Peyton Jones rounded out the top three SJO scorers with five points.

Rigdon finished with 18 points and the Lady Tigers got another huge 15-point push from Katelyn Littleton.

Uni-High suffers tough loss

The Illineks fall on the road to Decatur Lutheran, 73-46.

Spartans cruise past Chargers at Turkey Tournament

Ella Armstrong takes the ball to the hole
St. Joseph-Ogden's Ella Armstrong dribbles between Centennial's Aleah Emers and Kennedy Ramshaw on her way to the basket. Armstrong scored a game-high 18 points in the Spartans' third game of the season. See more photos from this game here.

St. Joseph -- St. Joseph-Ogden had 17 points on the scoreboard before the Centennial Chargers lit up digits on their side in the last 18 seconds of the first quarter with a couple of free throws during the third game of the Toyota of Danville Turkey Tournament last Thursday. Building up a comfortable 25-6 first-half lead, the Spartans went on to a convincing 54-26 victory.

Senior Ella Armstrong scored eight points in the first half and ten in the second, finishing with a game-high 18 points.

Ashlyn Lannert had 11 points, Payton Jacob finished with eight, and Peyton Jones added another seven to round out the top three scorers for the Spartans (3-0).

"It's amazing. I'm so proud of our girls," said first-year SJO girls coach Drew Arteaga, who now coaches on the very same hardwood he played on himself as a Spartan. He was proud that his team won their inaugural girls' holiday tournament. "It happened because of all of their hard work."

The Chargers scoring effort was led by Mia Dejesus and Avery Loschen, both with nine points apiece. Centennial finished the tournament with a 1-2 record.

Box Score

St. Joseph-Ogden 54 - Centennial 26

St. Joseph-Ogden -
Lannert 11-0-11, Frick 2-0-2, Jacob 8-0-8, Wells 2-1-3, Jones 5-2-7, Martinie 0-1-1, Kearney 2-0-2, Armstrong 17-1-18.
Totals: 49-5-54

Centennial -
Ramshaw 4-0-4, Loschen 7-2-9, Dejesus 6-3-9, Yahnke 0-2-2, Emers 2-0-2
Totals: 19-7-26

Stringer scores 13 in Rockets' win over LeRoy

Raegan Stringer delivered a 13-point performance in Unity's road game at LeRoy on Monday. Jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first half, the Rockets improved to 5-0 on the season after a 48-32 non-conference win over the Panthers.

Stringer, a sophomore, also had three rebounds and a pair of steals.

Maddie Reed, Lauren Miller, Taylor Henry, and Katey Moore combined effort netted 33 points for the Rockets.

Reed contributed 10 points, three assists, and like Stringer, two steals. Miller also grabbed the ball twice for steals and was the second leading rebounder for Unity with five boards. She was also credited with six assists to go along with her nine-point finish.

Scoring just eight points, Henry led the team with team-highs in rebounds (6), steals (4), and assists (6). Moore added another six points in the victory and had three rebounds. Like four of her teammates, she was credited with two steals, too.

The undefeated Rockets host their first home game on Monday when the Clinton Maroons invade the Rocket Center. A junior varsity game will start the evening with the varsity game to follow.

4th-quarter comeback propels Unity to Class 3A football championship game

The last time the Rockets played a semifinal football game at home there was three inches of slush on the grassy turf of Hicks Field. Brutally cold with a sustained 15 mile an hour crosswind gusting to 30 at times, last Saturday's weather conditions were in stark contrast to that of the Blizzard Bowl of 2015.

Under a cloudless blue sky and gentle rays of sunlight heating the barely two-year-old artificial turf, the outcome, played by seniors who were still in junior high during the Blizzard Bowl, was identical. Three quarters of solid defensive play yielded yet another shot at a football state title, the sixth since 1994 when head coach Scott Hamilton took the reigns, after defeating visiting Mt. Carmel, 28-21.

Head coach Scott Hamilton is congratulated by fans after Unity's 28-21 win over Mt. Carmel. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
"What a crazy game," Hamilton said while Unity players and fans celebrated the team's fourth 2021 playoff victory. The number one seed in the southern playoff bracket, the Rockets played all four postseason games at Hicks Field. "We'll enjoy this one and wake up tomorrow morning and give her hell."

The Rockets jumped out in front on their first possession on an 87-yard drive capped off with quarterback Blake Kimball sprinting three yards toward the southeast court of the end zone, and to the dismay of dozens of Golden Aces fans along the barrier behind the end zone, diving just inside the orange pylon for the first TD of the game.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
With a little help from teammate Camden Mette, Unity's Boden Franklin strips the ball from Mt. Carmel's Blayne Sisson during first quarter action. The Rockets recovered the fumble to set up their next scoring drive. See more game photos from

Three minutes later, thanks to a fumble forced by junior Boden Franklin, Kimball was back in the end zone after a two-yard run to put his team up 13-0. With another easy PAT and looking at 14-point first-quarter deficit, Mt. Carmel was shell-shocked. Or, so it seemed.

Shaking it off, the Golden Aces started pulling them out of their sleeve. The first, with less than a minute on the scoreboard, Zeke Hadra scored on an 11-yard run. Then, a second barely two minutes into the second quarter to tie the ballgame up at 14-all courtesy of Mt. Carmel quarterback Blayne Sisson's 70-yard gallop through the Rocket defense.

Mt. Carmel wasn't finished. Hadra threw down another ace in the form of a 10-yards touchdown sending both teams into the locker room with MTC looking golden at 21-14.

"Everything looked so bad the whole second quarter, the whole third quarter, and we couldn't do anything," Hamilton said.

Though it has been a rare occurrence for the Rockets to be behind on the scoreboard, teams don't win 17-straight football games by giving up.

"For whatever reason, whether it was the Monticello game, or if you look back to some of the other games last year, they just hung in there," Hamilton said. He also highlighted his team's struggle against Paxton-Buckley-Loda, whose football program loudly announced their entrance into the mighty Illini Prairie Conference this year. He was proud of how they responded with their 'it ain't over until its over' attitude. "They just don't ever give up on each other."

In the first series of the fourth quarter, Rockets' Will Cowan snags a interception in the Unity end zone. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Kimball and Matt Brown, who broke out for a 56-yard run on the drive, move the ball down the field. Pushed out of bounds at the 15-yard line, the Rockets had to wait until Kimball barreled into the east end zone for a third time to tie up the score.

"These guys just don't quit," Hamilton said, holding back tears of joy. "Their character is unbelievable."

Re-energized the Unity defense squad created another scoring opportunity with another interception. Camden Mette comes up big with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter. Not long after that, Brown finds his way into the end zone and the Rockets get the PAT to go up 28-21. The Rockets are just 5 minutes, ten seconds away from going to state.

"As he does all the time, Coach (Tony) Reetz got it figured out upfront," Hamilton said. A couple of defensive stops, a little game-clock finesse, and Unity would be preparing to play their 14th game this season. "Coach (Dave) Fink and our defensive guys took care of it on that end, and it's off to DeKalb we go."

Refusing to give up ground, the Unity defense stood tall stalling Mt. Carmel's desperate efforts to get a first down. The Rockets take control of the ball on their own 40 and meticulously wind down the clock down for the win.

Next up, the final test. Unity, who will play its first postseason road game at Huskie Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University, will square off against Byron.

The Tigers, who will make their third consecutive state final appearance, lost both previous contests by four points. In 2018, Monticello prevailed at Memorial Stadium, 24-20, and Williamsville held on to beat Byron 46-42 in DeKalb for the 2019 title.

Game time is at 4pm.

With more workers struggling with the pandemic’s aftermath, employers begin to expand mental health benefits

Photo: Farah/Burst
by Michelle Andrews
Kaiser Health News

As the covid-19 pandemic burns through its second year, the path forward for American workers remains unsettled, with many continuing to work from home while policies for maintaining a safe workplace evolve. In its 2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey, released Wednesday, KFF found that many employers have ramped up mental health and other benefits to provide support for their workers during uncertain times.

Meanwhile, the proportion of employers offering health insurance to their workers remained steady, and increases for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health expenses were moderate, in line with the rise in pay. Deductibles were largely unchanged from the previous two years.

“With the pandemic, I’m not sure that employers wanted to make big changes in their plans, because so many other things were disrupted,” said Gary Claxton, a senior vice president at KFF and director of the Health Care Marketplace Project. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Reaching out to a dispersed workforce is also a challenge, with on-site activities like employee benefits fairs curtailed or eliminated.

“It’s hard to even communicate changes right now,” Claxton said.

Many employers reported that since the pandemic started they’ve made changes to their mental health and substance use benefits. Nearly 1,700 nonfederal public and private companies completed the full survey.

At companies with at least 50 workers, 39% have made such changes, including:

  • 31% that increased the ways employees can tap into mental health services, such as telemedicine.
  • 16% that offered employee assistance programs or other new resources for mental health.
  • 6% that expanded access to in-network mental health providers.
  • 4% that reduced cost sharing for such visits.
  • 3% that increased coverage for out-of-network services.

Workers are taking advantage of the services. Thirty-eight percent of the largest companies with 1,000 or more workers reported that their workers used more mental health services in 2021 than the year before, while 12% of companies with at least 50 workers said their workers upped their use of mental health services.

Thundermist Health Center is a federally qualified health center that serves three communities in Rhode Island. The center’s health plan offers employees an HMO and a preferred provider organization, and 227 workers are enrolled.

When the pandemic hit, the health plan reduced the copayments for behavioral health visits to zero from $30.

“We wanted to encourage people to get help who were feeling any stress or concerns,” said Cynthia Farrell, associate vice president for human resources at Thundermist.

Once the pandemic ends, if the health center adds a copayment again, it won’t be more than $15, she said.

The pandemic also changed the way many companies handled their wellness programs. More than half of those with at least 50 workers expanded these programs during the pandemic. The most common change? Expanding online counseling services, reported by 38% of companies with 50 to 199 workers and 58% of companies with 200 or more workers. Another popular change was expanding or changing existing wellness programs to meet the needs of people who are working from home, reported by 17% of the smaller companies and 34% of the larger companies that made changes.

Beefing up telemedicine services was a popular way for employers to make services easier to access for workers, who may have been working remotely or whose clinicians, including mental health professionals, may not have been seeing patients in person.

In 2021, 95% of employers offered at least some health care services through telemedicine, compared with 85% last year. These were often video appointments, but a growing number of companies allowed telemedicine visits by telephone or other communication modes, as well as expanded the number of services offered this way and the types of providers that can use them.

About 155 million people in the U.S. have employer-sponsored health care. The pandemic didn’t change the proportion of employers that offered coverage to their workers: It has remained mostly steady at 59% for the past decade. Size matters, however, and while 99% of companies with at least 200 workers offers health benefits, only 56% of those with fewer than 50 workers do so.

In 2021, average premiums for both family and single coverage rose 4%, to $22,221 for families and $7,739 for single coverage. Workers with family coverage contribute $5,969 toward their coverage, on average, while those with single coverage pay an average of $1,299.

The annual premium change was in line with workers’ wage growth of 5% and inflation of 1.9%. But during the past 10 years, average premium increases have substantially exceeded increases in wages and inflation.

Workers pay 17% of the premium for single coverage and 28% of that for family coverage, on average. The employer pays the rest.

Deductibles have remained steady in 2021. The average deductible for single coverage was $1,669, up 68% over the decade but not much different from the previous two years, when the deductible was $1,644 in 2020 and $1,655 in 2019.

Eighty-five percent of workers have a deductible now; 10 years ago, the figure was 74%.

Health care spending has slowed during the pandemic, as people delay or avoid care that isn’t essential. Half of large employers with at least 200 workers reported that health care use by workers was about what they expected in the most recent quarter. But nearly a third said that utilization has been below expectations, and 18% said it was above it, the survey found.

At Thundermist Health Center, fewer people sought out health care last year, so the self-funded health plan, which pays employee claims directly rather than using insurance for that purpose, fell below its expected spending, Farrell said.

That turned out to be good news for employees, whose contribution to their plan didn’t change.

“This year was the first year in a very long time that we didn’t have to change our rates,” Farrell said.

The survey was conducted between January and July 2021. It was published in the journal Health Affairs and KFF also released additional details in its full report.

Subscribe to KHN's free Morning Briefing.

Photo Gallery: Faces in the crowd & on the field

It was a gorgeous late-fall Saturday at Hicks Field. Filled hundreds of fans and entertained by a couple of unintentional flyovers by commercial flights taking off from nearby Willard Airport, two of the four best Class 3A teams in the state squared off to advance to the state championship game at Northern Illinois University.

After two momentum shifts and a quiet third quarter, the Rockets exploded on both offense and defense for a come-from-behind 28-21 victory. Here's a look at the fans who fueled both teams and the players who gave their all.

Check out more faces and game photos here.

View more photos from this game in the PhotoNews Media archives. Follow this link to IHSA State semifinal Mt. Carmel at Unity.

Be grateful and express it in abundance

by Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

America has been through a tough time. A national election separated friends and family, divided churches and took over our media. We’ve been intoxicated with poisonous rhetoric and toxic street gatherings that led to more division, injuries and even death.

Americans horrifically viewed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and said we aren’t going to take that anymore.

Over 762,000 people have died from Covid-19 in America. Over 47 million of us have been sick. Families who have buried loved ones don’t need convincing about the realities of Covid-19. Americans who have spent weeks in hospital intensive care units know they are fortunate to be alive. However, in the midst of America’s pandemic nightmare, Americans have debated with each other over vaccinations, masks, school and business closures. We have watched our businesses suffer. Our government’s finances have been further strained to supply money to hurting unemployed people.

Americans watched our departure from Afghanistan in horror. We argued among ourselves about how we should have left, the timing of our departure, and whether we should have left at all.

We continue to struggle with racism in America. People who have experienced it know the reality. At all levels of society we must rise above any and all words or actions that denigrate others.

We continue to have other crises impacting our nation. People pouring over our border illegally, an ongoing drug epidemic, homelessness, rising costs of medical treatment and insurance, unaffordable college tuition, unaffordable housing and unaffordable and sometimes unavailable groceries. Americans are now facing the fire of growing inflation. Groceries are becoming even more unaffordable for poor Americans. The cost of living adjustment coming for America’s retirees in January, which is reported to be 5.9 percent, might buy a small bag of groceries, maybe.

America has gone through a tough time, maybe better said, we are going through a tough time. This is why we desperately need Thanksgiving.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s "first Thanksgiving" — although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time — the festival lasted for three days.

That first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the Mayflower ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from a member of the Abenaki tribe who greeted them in English.

Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans according to

The early settlers who came to America suffered hardships that few Americans can comprehend. In the midst of so much death, sickness and starvation they found a way to stop and express gratitude. The friendship and humanitarian aid given to them by native Americans stand out as to what really makes America great.

We all need to learn from the first Thanksgiving. This year maybe we all could take time to be grateful, and do something to help each other.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and views from our readers. Submit your letters to the editor or commentary on a current event 24/7 to


Avoid a dull kitchen performance, sharpen your cutlery

Photo: cottonbro/Pexels

StatePoint -- If you’ve ever desired to become a better home chef, you’ve probably spent time reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows or even taking a culinary skills course. The truth is that when it comes to improving your cooking and becoming more efficient in the kitchen, you may be overlooking a much simpler step: sharpening your knives.

Before your holiday guests arrive and you find yourself in the kitchen churning out big seasonal feasts, consider the following:

Why it Matters

Dull knives can damage and bruise ingredients, slow your slicing and dicing down considerably, and ironically, be more likely to cause you injury. (Whereas a sharp knife will easily slice into foods, a dull knife works less efficiently, making you more likely to apply pressure and lose control of the handle.) What’s more, uneven chopping can lend itself to uneven cooking.

How to Sharpen Knives

So what’s the best method for maintaining knives? Many home chefs use a whetstone to sharpen knives periodically, as well as a honing steel on a more regular basis. However, this can be a time-consuming prospect and doing it properly is an acquired skill in and of itself.

This is where new innovations can save you time and effort, and deliver better results. For example, Resharp, a knife-sharpening kiosk found in ACE Hardware stores, offers a new, patented, automated system that scans each knife’s profile and then restores a factory, burr-free edge to the knife in 90 seconds or less. Sharpening most American and European style knives, as well as Japanese knives with a V-shaped bevel, you can bring almost any chef, pairing, slicing, chopping, santoku, pocket, hunting or specialty knife to an ACE Hardware store to have it sharpened while you watch. To learn more and find locations, visit

Proper Storage

Once your knives are sharpened, be sure to store them properly to maintain their edges and protect their longevity. Wash and dry your knives, then store them carefully in a wooden block, on a magnetic strip or in a drawer dock.

From julienned carrots to minced garlic, seek out those complicated recipes involving chopping-intensive steps. By giving yourself the gift of well-maintained knives this holiday season, you’ll have a safer kitchen and be a more proficient cook.

Photo Gallery: Unity football is headed to state!

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Unity football head coach Scott Hamilton celebrates with players and fans after his 2021 Rocket team defeated visiting Mt. Carmel High School on Saturday at Hicks Field on Saturday. Unity prevailed in the seesaw battle to advance to the state title game after defeating the Golden Aces, 28-21. Heading to the Class 3A championship game, the Rockets will take their 17-game win streak to DeKalb to face the Byron Tigers who upset IC Catholic with a stunning fourth-quarter 15-14 comeback.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Clutching the game ball, Rockets' quarterback Blake Kimball congratulates members of the Mt. Carmel team after the game. Kimball scored three of the four Unity TDs on Saturday and finished the game with 142 yards.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Members of the Unity Dance Team perform during halftime. The Rockets trailed going into the locker room, 21-14.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
A Unity receiver nearly loses his helmet taking a hit from Mt. Carmel safety Gage Kennard on a pass play.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Rockets' lineman Austin McDaniel lays out Golden Aces' receiver Gage Kennard in the second half.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Unity student fans cheer for their team during the fourth quarter. The Rockets fourth-quarter rally secured one of two spots in the Class 3A title game.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Cameron Marvin celebrates the first of two fourth-quarter TDs for the Rockets.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Unity quarterback Blake Kimball rolls out looking for an open receiver in the third quarter. See more photos of Kimball from this game here.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Oran Varela, a 5-11, 225-lb lineman for the Unity Rockets, fights his way past Luke Laws into the Golden Aces' backfield in the first half.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Unity's Cale Rawdin carries the ball looking for more green turf to cover moving the ball up the field.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Golden Aces linemen Luke Dardeen and Noah Noble celebrate their team first touchdown in the second quarter.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
With a little help from teammate Camden Mette, Unity's Boden Franklin strips the ball from Mt. Carmel's Blayne Sisson during first quarter action. The Rockets recovered the fumble to set up their next scoring drive.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Unity's Grant Albaugh and Kyus Root break through a banner before the start of their last home game of the season. The Rockets played all four of their 2021 postseason football games on their home field. Beating Mt. Carmel in the semifinals punched the Rockets' ticket to the Class 3A championship game this Friday at 4pm.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Rockets' Matt Brown and Karson Richardson head out to the field before the start of their team's final home of the season. The Rockets have not lost a contest at Hicks Field since August 30, 2019 against Illinois Valley Central. See more photos from this game using the preceeding link later this week.

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