Normal West junior Ryan Frye, left, attempts to take down junior Kendrick Cooley, right, Friday at Normal Community High School. (You Name It Sports/B Corbin)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - Another lackluster first half doomed the Normal West Wildcats, who have dropped back-to-back games after an 18-game regular-season win streak.
The Bloomington Purple Raiders jumped on the No. 10-state ranked Wildcats for a 19-0 first half lead. The Raiders held off a second-half rally for a 33-14 homecoming win at Fred Carlton Field.
Kendrick Cooley followed up his 317-yard performance against Champaign Centennial last week with a 129-yard outburst and two touchdowns to pace the 5-2 Raiders, who share of the Big 12 lead with Urbana (6-1, 5-1).
The Wildcats offense, still struggling to find its rythym after quarterback Alex Jefferson suffered a potentially season-ending leg injury two weeks ago, managed just 8 yards in the first half and failed to get a first down in their first five possessions.
Taking advantage of good field position for much of the first half, Jake Romani threw two first-half scores to give BHS a 19-point lead at the half before the Wildcats rallied.
"I think we played well on the offense side. There were things they were giving us and we feel with the skill we have, we can do some things," BHS coach Rigo Schmelzer said.
West scored on its first two series of the second half to trim the lead to 19-14.
Bloomington elected to punt on 4th down and a foot in West terrirory to start the fourth quarter and the move paid off. The Wildcats punted after three plays and the Raiders quickly drove down the field, capping the drive on a 12-yard touchdown run by Cooley.
"It was nice to see the kids respond. I know they feel good on Homecoming weekend and as a staff we feel very happy with them," Schmelzer said.
Quarterback Jake Romani said the Purple Raiders did a good job of staying focused when the Wildcats rallied.
"We were going to keep on getting good field position. As a team, we needed to stay together... can't get down on each other," Romani said.
Cooley's interception and return to the Wildcat 5-yard line set up the score that put the game out of reach.
Bloomington hosts Decatur Eisenhower next Friday night. West plays its non-conference game next Friday at Marion Catholic in Mishawaka, Ind.
You can hear Joel Swanson's postgame interview with Schmelzer on the podcast page at www.wjbc.com.
B- McLean Funk 5-yd. pass from Jake Romani (kick failed)
B- Kendrick Cooley 3-yd. run (run failed)
B- Devaughn Dix 12-yd. pass from Romani (John Kissel kick)
NW- Matt Hunsaker 37-yd. pass from Greg Hiltbrand (Zach Bren kick)
NW- Dominigue Stevenson 6-yd. run (Breen kick)
B- Cooley 12-yd. run (Kissel kick)
B- Romani 1-yd run (Kissel kick)
NORMAL WEST INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Rushing: Dominique Stevenson 12-49
Passing: Greg Hiltbrand 8-21-3-106
Receiving: Jacob Evans 2-41
BLOOMINGTON INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Rushing: Kendrick Cooley 19-129; Chance Mendiola 11-54
Passing: Jake Romani 16-33-0-199
Receiving: McLean Funk 7-72; Devaugn Dix 4-68
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com.