Preps of summer: News you might have missed
School might not be in session, but news isn’t hard to come by. Here are a few headlines you might have missed during summer break, courtesy staff writer SCOTT RICHEY:
‘The perfect job’: Assistant tabbed to lead G-RF football
Josh Cavanaugh led a resurgence in the Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman football team after three straight 3-6 seasons from 2007-09, taking the Buffaloes to the playoffs the last three years after just missing in his first season.
Cavanaugh’s resignation in May meant G-RF athletic director Don Hackler had to find someone to keep the program moving in that same direction. That decision was made Monday night, as former assistant Nathan West was tabbed as the Buffaloes’ new head coach.
“We talked to a couple assistants that were within the program, and Nathan was the one that was in the building and rose to the top,” Hackler said. “We were hoping to be able to keep some continuity to keep the momentum that had been built the last three years.”
Hackler went on to add that having a head coach teaching in the high school was an important part of the hiring process. West teaches physical education at the high school and is also the Buffaloes’ head girls track coach. West said adding head football coach to the list was “like a dream come true.”
“Basically I have the perfect job now,” West said. “The last little thing I wanted to do, or opportunity to have, was to be a head football coach.”
West spent the last two years on Cavanaugh’s coaching staff. Prior to that he was an assistant for two seasons at Oakwood, his alma mater. While the Buffaloes were in limbo earlier this summer after Cavanaugh’s resignation, West and fellow assistant Jay Willaman — who also applied for the head coaching position — worked with the team together.
“Actually really well,” West said about how the summer went. “For the kids not knowing what was going on and us really not knowing, we focused on the kids as individuals and made sure they understood the concepts of the game.”
GR-F will open the 2014 season on Aug. 29 at home against Warrensburg-Latham. The Cardinals finished 2-7 last season under first-year coach Scott Godfrey.
Rowan picks Leathernecks
Recruiting news for the upcoming school year typically doesn’t happen in mid-July. Those decisions usually come the previous November or early in the spring.
Recent Central grad Kameron Rowan had to wait a little longer, but the end result is the same. Rowan committed to Western Illinois on Friday to play for the Leathernecks for the 2014-15 season.
“It was actually really hard,” Rowan said about not knowing his basketball future until now. “In the beginning I had a lot of schools that wanted me, and I wasn’t showing that much interest in them, so they started to leave and recruit other players. It felt like with Western they wanted me so bad, and when I went to visit it was perfect.”
Rowan said the Leathernecks’ coaching staff was what sold him on committing. New head coach Billy Wright recruited Rowan while he was coaching at Ball State and kept it up after he was named Western’s coach in April.
“They really welcomed me,” Rowan said. “They want me to be like I’m at home at Western.”
Rowan, a News-Gazette All-Area First Team selection last season, was the scoring and assists leader for the Maroons. The 6-foot guard scored 10.8 points and dished out 2.8 assists per game to help lead Central to the Class 3A sectional final.
Now, he gets a chance to extend his basketball career with the Leathernecks. Western finished 10-20 overall last season with a 4-10 mark in the Summit League.
“Super relieved,” Rowan said of committing on Friday. “I’m truly blessed just to get the chance to play at the next level in college.”
Local players get chance to shine in Shrine
Six area football players participated in the 40th Illinois High School Shrine Game on July 12 at Tucci Field on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
Recent Monticello grad Brendan Menacher stole the show. The all-conference, all-area and all-state football player — and state runner-up wrestler — was named the Defensive MVP for the East, which won the game 21-14.
Other area players on the East roster included Urbana wide receiver James Cobbs, Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond linebacker Logan West, Bismarck-Henning lineman Wilde Garowski, St. Thomas More lineman Brett Roos and Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement lineman Dee Woods.
New coach at Central
Central athletic director John Woods didn’t waste too much time in finding a new girls basketball coach when 2009 Bradley grad Martin Pazanin resigned in mid-June, after two years leading the Maroons, to return to the Peoria area as the new head coach at Illinois Valley Central in Chillicothe.
Woods also didn’t have to look too far. Aaron Ratka was named Central’s new girls coach on Monday. He was an assistant at Judah Christian last year, and his wife Celeste is the video coordinator for the Illini women’s basketball team.
“He’s a young guy, and he’s certainly going to bring energy to the program,” Woods said. “He is grounded in our core values, and that’s certainly something we were looking for. Somebody that could build on what Coach Pazanin established and continue to develop and grow the culture throughout the entire program was paramount in our decision.”
Woods also mentioned Ratka’s own playing experience as something that swayed the hiring process in his favor.
Ratka grew up playing basketball and football in northeast Wisconsin before playing two seasons at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, a Division III program. He also ended up playing semi-pro basketball and football during 11 months spent studying abroad in Germany.
Ratka was in the midst of working with the Judah Christian boys team this summer — he moved from the girls team after last season ended — when the Central job became available.
“To be honest, I was kind of knee deep in summer stuff over at Judah when I saw the opening,” he said. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought I wanted to run my own program and get involved that way.
“I think I’m walking into an established program that has had some success. I know they finished third in the Big 12 last year. I’m looking forward to a lot of the players that were a part of that team coming back.”
Ratka got the first look at his new team Friday in an informal open gym and meet-and-greet.