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CHAMPAIGN – It's a late October afternoon and St. Thomas More senior running back Dylan Ray is on the football field, braving the elements on a chilly day. But for Ray, there's nowhere else he'd rather be.
That's because at this time last year, Ray was hanging up his helmet and shoulder pads. Football season was over. The Sabers had just wrapped up a disappointing season in which they finished 1-8.
ST. JOSEPH – The exploits of the previous seven seasons, when St. Joseph-Ogden averaged 27 volleyball wins a year, are a memory.
The current team will be unable to finish with an above-.500 record, but in a season which senior Cat Foreman calls "a roller-coaster ride," there have been moments where the successes of the past clearly still exist.
MAHOMET – As the stakes get higher, Centennial's boys' soccer team gets more comfortable.
The Chargers inched closer to their first sectional title since 2001 by beating Normal West 3-0 on Tuesday. It was their third – and most impressive – win of the Class 2A postseason for the top-seeded Chargers, who meet Normal University High at 6 p.m. Thursday.
MAHOMET – Champaign Central's boys' soccer team was unable to overcome a disputed first-half penalty kick goal as the Maroons fell to Normal University High 1-0 in the first round of sectional play Tuesday night.
The game's only goal came with five minutes to play in the half after the referee called a penalty on the Maroons for a push. Central coach Josh Alford said the referee set the tone early that he was going to blow his whistle a lot.
TOLONO – For Unity coach Scott Hamilton, Saturday's game against Riverton is a case of teacher vs. pupil.
When Hamilton was coaching quarterbacks at Hardin Calhoun in the early 1990s, Riverton coach J.D. Lorton was the quarterback. Together the duo helped the Warriors claim their second of consecutive Class 1A state titles.
GIBSON CITY – Gibson City-Melvin Sibley has lost three of its last four games, but coach Mike Allen isn't worried about his team's confidence. The three losses came at the hands of Flanagan, Fieldcrest and Ridgeview – all playoff teams – by a total of 17 points.
"Those were all very good teams we played," Allen said. "Even though we lost the kids felt really good about how they played. They know a play here and there the outcomes could have been different."
MONTICELLO – Giving up apparently is not part of the curriculum taught at Urbana Uni High School.
Despite trailing by three late, the Illineks would not let up in their 3-2 sectional-final loss to Teutopolis on Monday.
Staff writer Marcus Jackson's 10 thoughts after seeing the IHSA playoff brackets Saturday:
TUSCOLA – He's a year removed, now studying speech communication at Parkland College.
But Joe Vandeventer still gets goosebumps when he thinks about Tuscola's run to the Class 1A state championship last fall.