WSIL Preview: Red Devils hopeful for consecutive playoff appearances

SESSER, IL-  (Sean Conway, WSIL-TV.  Please click on the link for the full story and video.  Here is an excerpt below)

WSIL photo

With preseason practices coming to a close, many high school football teams have their eyes set on the regular season and dreams of playoff contention.

Last season, the team made their first playoff appearance in four years, before an early first round exit.

“I think our biggest challenge is us stopping ourselves, and not being able to finish games. Because last year we had problems with that. Some games we weren’t able to finish. We had good leads on teams and we just let it slip. So I think the problem is us holding ourselves against each other,” said Red Devil fullback/linebacker Jayon Malone.


Recap of the IHSA board of directors meeting: 8/21/17

Press release from Matt Troha, Assistant Executive Director of the Illinois High School Association

The IHSA Board of Directors met for their regularly scheduled meeting at the IHSA office in Bloomington on Monday, August 21, 2017 where the Board announced that Hoffman Estates High School will serve as the new host of the IHSA Boys Gymnastics State Finals.

Hoffman Estates will host the state finals for the first time this May, and will also be the state championship venue in 2019 and 2020. Hoffman Estates has hosted the IHSA Boys Volleyball State Finals since 1995, as well as the IHSA Class 2A & 3A Boys Soccer State Finals since 2013.

“Hoffman Estates High School is thrilled to continue our partnership with the IHSA by hosting the Boys Gymnastics State Finals,” said Hoffman Estates Athletic Director Steve Lacni. “We look forward to showcasing the best boys’ gymnasts in the state, while continuing to promote the great sport of gymnastics. I want to thank the Township High School D211 Board of Education, administration, and the IHSA for supporting us in this endeavor.”

Hinsdale Central hosted the IHSA Boys Gymnastics State Finals the past four years.

“We are excited about the next chapter of the IHSA Boys Gymnastics State Finals at Hoffman Estates High School,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Hoffman Estates has shown tremendous pride in their efforts to put on first-class IHSA state final events, and we know that boys’ gymnastics will be the next IHSA sports to benefit from their passion. We also want to recognize and thank Athletic Director Dan Jones and the entire Hinsdale Central community for all they have done in hosting the past four years.”


1.The Board approved the Program for International Students at Arlington Heights (St. Viator).

2. The Board approved a recommendation to allow winners in the IHSA Music Sweepstakes contest the ability to purchase an IHSA medallion, in addition to the IHSA pin they are awarded in the contest.

3. The Board approved updates to the IHSA’s Document Retention Policy.

4. The Board approved the IHSA’s Personnel Policies for the 2017-18 school year.


At each meeting of the Board of Directors, there are certain items the Board discusses, but upon which no action is taken. The following is a report of those items from the August 21, 2017, agenda:

1. Don Sebestyen, the Chairperson for the Illinois Council of Private Schools, presented data to the Board about the IHSA’s multiplier and success formula.

2. The Board heard a report from Assistant Executive Director Sam Knox on the 2017 IHSA Officials Conference, which was attended by over 600 officials in East Peoria on July 21-22.

3. The Board heard a report from Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson on the 2017 IHSA All-School Mailing.

4. The Board heard a report on the IADA’s New Athletic Directors Workshop co-hosted by the IHSA in July.

5. The Board heard a report on member school financial aid information.

6. The Board heard a report from the staff on its staff retreat discussion, including future ideas to be presented on classifications and state series structure.

7. The Board heard a report on IHSA staff goals for the 2017-18 school year.


Meet the Bearcats tonight at Spann Field

CHRISTOPHER, IL – Tonight at 6:15 p.m. is the orange and white C-Z-R scrimmage and meet the Bearcats night, at Spann Field in Christopher.  I also understand it is the Meet the Bearcats night in volleyball.    The price of admission is can goods, protein bars, or sports drinks. .

Tomorrow night is the opening night for the Junior Bearcats. The 5th and 6th grade game is at 5:00 p.m. and the 7th and 8th grade game is at 7:00 p.m.

Coach Anthony Hargorve’s 2017 edition of C-Z-R opens next Friday night at home against Vienna-Goreville.

Meet the Redbirds tonight at Johnson Field at 6:00 p.m.

WEST FRANKFORT, IL – Meet the Redbirds will be tonight at 6:00 p.m. at Johnson Field in West Frankfort.  Admission will be $2.00 and two can goods.

Football players will be selling Redbird Cards until tomorrow.  One is pictured above.  This is the only fundraiser for the team each year, so show your support to the program for purchasing one, and saving some money at area businesses.

Come out and support the Redbirds, tonight and at their home opener one week from tonight against Anna-Jonesboro.

Junior High/High School Sports Schedule 8/17/17

HS Boys Golf

WEST FRANKFORT at Carbondale

HS Girls Golf

Marion, Hamilton County at WEST FRANKFORT

Junior High Softball


BENTON at Marion

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Herrin) at THOMPSONVILLE

Junior High Baseball


BENTON at Marion

THOMPSONVILLE at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Herrin)

All events weather permitting




Press Release from CSN Chicago provided by the Illinois High School Association


Special ‘Football Preview’ season premiere edition of “High School Lites presented by Wintrust” (hosted by Kelly Crull) to debut Friday, August 18 at 11:00 PM CT

CSN live stream available on or via the NBC Sports app

Prairie Ridge Wolves, the defending IHSA Class 6A state champion, to be the featured team this year on the network’s exclusive, behind-the-scenes team spotlight segment “DRIVE”

Network to also present a brand new “Faith in Football: History of the Chicago Catholic League presented by Wintrust” documentary series chronicling a century of action on the gridiron

Fans are urged to follow the @CSNDrive Twitter handle for the latest Prairie Ridge scores, analysis and photos, along with 24/7 state-wide IHSA updates via @CSNPreps

“Edgy” Tim O’Halloran and Scott Phillips return for their fifth seasons as CSN’s local preps sports experts

New Preps Talk podcast, featuring in-depth interviews with coaches, players and famous Chicagoland alumni to also debut this month


CHICAGO, IL– CSN Chicago (CSN), the home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Championships, is ready to bring its viewers another action-packed season of expert local preps sports coverage, featuring many of the very best student-athletes in the nation. Note the following highlights/details for the upcoming IHSA preps season on CSN:

HIGH SCHOOL LITES presented by Wintrust (“Football Preview” season premiere – Friday, August 18 at 11:00 PM CT)
Hosted by Kelly Crull, High School Lites presented by Wintrust continues to be THE weekly destination for all the thrilling highlights from the area’s biggest preps match-ups, along with post-game interviews featuring the area’s top coaches and players. In addition to in-depth video highlights, High School Lites will profile exemplary student-athletes who are excelling on and off the playing surface in High School Lites’ “Wintrust Athlete of The Week” segment, while distinguished teams will be profiled in the show’s “Team of the Week” segment, presented by St. Xavier University.

Continuing this season, High School Lites will offer fans the chance to get interactive with the show by participating in the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” The wildly popular week-long poll will pit three Chicagoland matchups against one another. Fans are encouraged to vote via @CSN Preps for the game they want CSN Chicago to cover on Friday night. The winning matchup will be profiled in a special segment in the show. In addition, fans will also be given the opportunity to request the game that “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran (football) and Scott Phillips (basketball) cover each Friday night by utilizing the hashtag #SendEdgy and #FollowPhilips, respectively. For year-round IHSA coverage, be sure to follow our Twitter handle @CSNPreps.

NOTES: Every airing of High School Lites will also be live streamed on or via the NBC Sports app…the show shifts to Saturday nights in November to accommodate IHSA Football playoff match-ups…beginning Friday, December 1, High School Lites shifts its key focus to preps basketball.

In every weekly airing of High School Lites this season, preps fans can look forward to a brand new season of its acclaimed, behind-the-scenes, unprecedented all-access feature series entitled, “DRIVE.” This fall’s featured team will be the Prairie Ridge Wolves, who are coming off an exciting 6A state championship last season. The Wolves, who play in the competitive Fox Valley conference, feature two standout players who have given their commitments to Iowa – quarterback Samson Evans and offensive lineman Jeff Jenkins – who co-anchor a scoring unit that racked up an average of 50 points per game in 2016. Prairie Ridge will be seeking their third state championship in the last seven years. NOTE: Every episode of “DRIVE” will be made available for viewing on immediately following its on-air debut.

CSN’s comprehensive documentary will take a look back at the moments that defined the most dominant football conference in the state over the past 100 years. The evolution of the conference and key figures who have helped shape it will be highlighted in a unique way for fans of all ages to enjoy throughout the season. Special vignettes will be featured throughout the fall in High School Lites, on and on CSN’s social media platforms with the full feature being presented to fans in October.

Veteran Illinois high school football sports writer/recruiting authority “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran (@EDGYTIM) returns for his fifth season as a contributing reporter for High School Lites. O’Halloran’s CSN Preps Power Rankings (@CSNPreps), players & coaches profiles and recruiting updates can be found at In addition, O’Halloran’s content is also featured on’s partner site, Scott Phillips (@phillipshoops) also returns for his fifth season as a contributing reporter for High School Lites and will take center stage this upcoming basketball season. Phillips is also a key contributor to’s “CollegeBasketballTalk.”

Starting August 16, the CSN Chicago preps reporting team will bring prep sports fans a new, weekly podcast. Hosted by Joe Collins (@JoeCSN) and Jared Storck (@jaredstorck) with appearances by “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran and Scott Phillips, the podcast will feature the latest storylines, game previews, recruiting analysis and special interviews with Chicagoland high school alumni. Fans are encouraged to listen along at

For the sixth-straight year, CSN Chicago and the IHSA will present the IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show LIVE on Saturday, October 21 at 8:00 PM. Brackets will be unveiled as 256 Illinois teams, from 1A to 8A, will find out their first round opponent. This two-hour show will also be streamed live on and the NBC Sports app.

Fans are urged to visit’s dedicated Preps section ( for the latest Preps Power Rankings, Illinois AP rankings, special segment video features, the latest IHSA news, game highlights and recaps, special mid-week segments previewing the upcoming week’s action featuring detailed analytical breakdowns from “Edgy Tim” O’Halloran and Scott Phillips, and much more.

Social media fans can follow the network’s @CSNDrive Twitter handle for the latest Prairie Ridge scores, highlights, players & coaches interviews, and analysis. Fans can follow the school’s Twitter handle (@PrairieRidge), along with the school’s dedicated football Twitter handle (@PrairieRidgeFB) and utilize the hashtag #DriveWolves. In addition, @CSNPreps will provide fans with the latest statewide updates throughout the scholastic year, which will include Power Rankings, scores, analysis, and viewer/reader Twitter photos from game day.


Zack Essex new basketball coach at Varna-Midland

by Steve Dunford

Coach Essex, with his daughter standing with him,  and the Joppa Rangers during the national anthem at Thompsonville during the 2015-16 season.

Former West Frankfort Redbird, Zack Essex has been hired to coach basketball at Varna-Midland high school.  Midland is located 30 miles northeast of Peoria.  Their enrollment is 192, so it would be comparable to Sesser-Valier, Goreville or Christopher in enrollment size.  The Timberwolves compete in the Tri-County conference.

Essex spent the last two years at Joppa High School.  The Rangers posted an 18-12 record in the 2016-17 season, which was the first winning record in fifteen years  at the small Massac County school.  Joppa has the exact same enrollment as the fictional Hickory in the movie Hoosiers, 64.

Essex promoted culture change in his time there.  His team would make a trip to the Sesser-Valier Holiday tournament to scout future opponents.  The Rangers played in the two day Dongola Christmas Tournament, so they would have a day they were able to come up.  He also scouted Thompsonville on the meet to team day, as he spent a lot of time in Franklin County with family.

The Tigers were the only Franklin County school on the Ranger’s schedule, as they started a series during the 2015-16 season.  Joppa beat the Tigers on their homecoming night last year 61-54.

Long time Marion coach Larry Jenkins got his start at Joppa, winning a Class A regional in 1982, as well as Sesser-Valier’s Rick Metcalf picked up his first of his over 500 wins there.

Joppa will have 6′ 6″ Caleb Cox coming back, as I have described him as a Brant Glidewell type player.

Good luck to Coach Essex in the next step of his coaching career.

Below is the story from the Lacon Home Journal, the local paper that covers Midland.


Zach Essex Hired As New Boy’s
Basketball Coach, PE Teacher At Midland

Midland High School has found their new boy’s basketball coach. Thirty-one year old Zach Essex was employed by the Midland Board of Education on Monday, July 24th as the new PE teacher and head boy’s basketball coach replacing Josh Hofer who took an employment opportunity at East Peoria High School.

Essex, a graduate of West Frankfort High School and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, served the last two years as Health and PE teacher, head basketball and baseball coach as well as athletic director at tiny Joppa High School in Joppa, Illinois, a town of around 400 people located on the Ohio River about 20 miles northwest of Paducah, Kentucky.

Coach Essex with his daughter at the Joppa High school gym.

“Obsessed” with basketball, Essex took over the program at Joppa High School in the fall of 2015. He took over a program that had averaged just 6 wins over the past 15 years and won 10 games in his first season, then improved that to 18 wins last season. He takes over in a similar situation at Midland where the team has struggled lately, averaging just 5.4 wins over the last 5 seasons, the last one under Coach Josh Hofer (4-23) and the previous two (5-49)
under Coach Matt O’Brien.

The last winning season came in the 2011-12 season when Coach Jeff Herkelman led the team to a 17- 13, a season that cultimated with a berth in the “Sweet 16” and a trip to the Sectional Championship game.

“I would not have moved away for nothing,” stated Essex. “There is just something about Midland. It’s a bigger 1A school. The administration has been great, the weight room is huge and the facility is

Essex also stated that he has been doing his homework, scouting Midland’s opponents for next
year, noting that there are just four teams on the regular season schedule that posted winning records last year.

“I think Midland has the talent. That’s another reason I wanted this program,” stated Essex.
“I put a lot of time in with my players. It will be a very busy fall getting gym open and getting to know them personally. From there we will start thinking basketball.”

Essex is moving with his family to the area prior to the start of the September 5th school year. He becomes the 8th head basketball coach at Midland since the district was formed back in 1995.



WSIL High School Football Preview: Harrisburg’s new top dog

HARRISBURG, IL  (Darren Kinnard, WSIL-TV.  Please click on the link for the full story and video.  Here is an excerpt below.)

Gabe Angelly told the Harrisburg Bulldogs it was the first August practice he ever remembered wearing sleeves.  It was also his first official practice as the head football coach.

Angelly takes over a team that went 4-5 last year, falling one win short of a playoff berth.
“They know how to win,” said Angelly.  “They want to win again.  Last year, it was one of those where we had a couple of game slip away from us.

We very easily could’ve been a 6-3 ballclub last year.  I think that the kids want to get back to that playoff football again.”


by Steve Dunford

It does not seem possible, but Friday Night Lights are 2 1/2 weeks  away.  I will be keeping a close eye on the SIRR-Ohio and the Black Diamond Conference.  I might throw a few stories in there from time to time from the Mississippi Division of the River to River.

There will be extensive coverage of the Benton Rangers, the  West Frankfort Redbirds, the  C-Z-R Bearcats, the  S-V-W-W Red Devils, the  Hamilton County Foxes and the Johnston City Indians.

I will be working on the next few days contacting each coach in the BDC, and the Ohio division.  I plan on writing a preview of all the teams.

Here is something that I did on my blogsite last year.  I would have a preview of each game of the schools I cover.  I am going to step it up one notch this year.  I am going to talk to the opposing coaches as well.

Because of the logistics of things, the coverage might be heavily for West Frankfort.  With NewsChannel 15 in Mt. Carmel, video steaming multiple Black Diamond games weekly.  I know Harrisburg and I believe Murphysboro streams as well.  If you want your team to get coverage, all you have to do is ask.

Coverage will not be limited to football only.  I will share some things from volleyball, cross country and golf.  I might share some info from time to time from junior high baseball games.

Because I can not divide myself and be several places at one time, if coaches and fans could provide me information, and a picture it would be great.  You can call me at 937-0253, call or text at 513-1274, send me an email at or send me a message on Facebook.

I am looking forward to the fall sports season starting.

Illinois high schools sports somewhat prepared for funding uncertainty

Illinois schools, and Illinois high school sports, will start on time this month. How long both keep going is an open question.

High school football started Monday morning at schools across Illinois. The season will run until the days after Thanksgiving, when state championship games are played.

Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson expects every team in the state to be able to finish the season, but he’s prepared if they don’t.

“It’s really going to be a local decision,” Anderson said. “Just because they’re not conducting school won’t take them out of the playoffs