November 23, 2015

Ssshhh! Big Picture Sneak Peak

Regardless if you were at Saturday's semifinal football game between St. Joseph-Ogden and Unity or not, you will want to check out this commemorative Big Picture special edition. With more than 40 high-quality sports photographs from the game between the two storied high school football programs, this upcoming magazine issue features Rocket fans and their team punching their ticket to the Illinois High School Association's Class 3A title game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

The Big Picture is exactly what sounds like; a magazine loaded front to back with B-I-G photographs, some so big they take up two full pages. Featuring our favorite pictures from the game, we even went all nostalgic and what not creating eight retro look photos that look pretty darn awesome, too.   

Excited about Friday's release of the Unity Rocket issue, below is a sneak peak at the cover and two of the pages. A second version featuring players from St. Joseph-Ogden will follow a few days later.

Check back this Friday for information view the entire issue online or to order your copy.

November 20, 2015

Six area all-state athletes named by IHSFCA

The Illinois High School Football Coaches Association named six area PhotoNews football athletes as all-staters. Champaign Central defensive back Matt Brown made the 5A cut and Tuscola's Nick Bates earned recognition in 1A. The remaining four selected players were chosen out of the Okaw Valley Conference including St. Joseph-Ogden's Wesley Kibler and Jake Pence, Unity's Zach Gadbury and Brandon Wildman quarterback for the Monticello Sages. Meet the players and see them in action below.

Zach Gadbury in Unity's home season opener

August 28, 2015 - Tolono, IL - Lineman Zach Gadbury fires off the line while playing in Unity's home season opener against St. Teresa. The Rockets started their 2015 campaign with 41-28 win over the visiting Bulldogs. Unity host St. Joseph-Ogden tomorrow with a chance to advance to their fifth state title game appearance with a win over the Spartans. Check out more photos in our collection of the 6'2", 275-lb Zach Gadbury.

Brandon Wildman

September 25, 2015 - Monticello, IL - Monticello quarterback Brandon Wildman (6'4" 210-lb) calls for the snap during his team's home game against St. Joseph-Ogden. After a stunning victory over the Unity Rockets a week earlier, the Sages fell 26-7 to the Spartans last Friday. See 19 more game photos of Brandon Wildman here.

SJO receiver Jake Pence

November 14, 2015 - Bloomington, IL - Jake Pence makes a catch for St. Joseph-Ogden in the first quarter against Central Catholic. The Spartans improved to 12-0 on the season after knocking off the Saints in their IHSA quarterfinal football game with a 26-21 victory. Pence made four catches for 53 yards and scored on an 11-yard play. Here our gallery with more photos of one of two SJO all-state players.

SJO receiver Jake Pence

September 12, 2014 - Urbana, IL - Champaign Central's Matt Brown plays defense during their away game at Urbana. The Maroons defeated the Tigers in Big 12 Conference play 44-26 to win this year's Wright Street Trophy. Brown and the Maroons, who won their first state title in 1897, take on Lincoln-Way West on Saturday with a shot in playing in their first football state title game since more than 100 years.

Spartan's Wesley Kibler and his game-changing interception

November 14, 2015 - Bloomington, IL - Wesley Kibler celebrate his game-changing interception during St. Joseph-Ogden's playoff game against Central Catholic. The Spartans improved to 12-0 on the season after knocking Bloomington Central Catholic in their IHSA quarterfinal football game with a 26-21 victory. Take a look at our photo collection of Wesley Kibler.

Here is the complete list of our all-state team members.


Mitch Bierman RB 5'10 175 Newton Community H.S. Jason Fulton
Jacob Elsbury LB 6'0 190 Byron High School Jeff Boyer
Zach Gadbury OL 6'2 275 Unity High School Scott Hamilton
Nick Hawkins RB 5'8 184 Wilmington High School Jeff Reents
Jack Heflin DT 6'3 265 Erie-Prophetstown H.S. Chuck Milem
Jerrico Johnson LB 5'10 195 Bishop McNamara Catholic Rich Zinanni
Wesley Kibler DL 6'2 215 St. Joseph-Ogden Dick Duval
Jon Myers OT/DT 6'5 310 North Mac High School Shane Owsley
Brad Novak OT/DT 6'8 290 Elmwood/Brimfield H.S. Todd Hollis
Jake Pence DB 5'10 165 St. Joseph-Ogden Dick Duval
Jordan Rowell RB/DB 6'1 190 IC Catholic Prep Bill Krefft
Jacob Smith LB/RB 5'10 180 Princeton High School Jesse Snyder
BoDee Steber OT 6'4 295 Newton Community H.S. Jason Fulton
Jonathan Ward RB 6'0 180 Bishop McNamara Catholic Rich Zinanni
Brennan White QB/K 6'1 175 North Mac High School Shane Owsley
Brandon Wildman QB 6'4 210 Monticello High School Cullen Welter
Chaz Williams OT,DE 6'1 230 Princeton High School Jesse Snyder
Ryan Zitkus LB/FB 5'1 230 Central Catholic HS Mike Moews

Nick Bates QB 6'1 208 Tuscola High School Andy Romine

Matt Brown DB 5'10 185 Champaign Central Nate Albaugh

November 18, 2015

Clash of legends; St. Joe vs Unity

This Saturday will be the ninth and final time St. Joseph-Ogden and Unity under Spartan head coach Dick Duval and Unity head coach Scott Hamilton will square off in what will surely be yet another legendary gridiron battle between the well-known rivals of two of Illinois' most highly-respected football programs.

With a trip to the Class 3A title game on the line, it will be textbook game of strategy, execution and mental toughness. With Duval's 251 coaching wins in 26 years and Hamilton's the 212 during his tenure, this game surely will be played to and likely won in the final 10 seconds of the game. Combined, Duval and Hamilton have made 48 playoff appearances out the 50 seasons they have led their respective programs heading into Saturday's showdown after which one team will advance to play in the Class 3A title game at Northern Illinois University the day after Thanksgiving.

Out of the eight postseason meetings between the highly-respected small school programs, PhotoNews Media has covered five of those contests. Capturing the plays and emotional moments from star players, dedicated coaches and fans of the two rival powerhouse football programs, we published more than 280 photos from our archives today for fans of both programs to relive the glory and heartbreak of those games.

Here's a look at the games and links to the photo galleries by years from our collection. Click on any of the names in blue to see more photos of that athlete in our online archive.


Ben Gorman tackles Henry Deters during their quarterfinal game

Spartans' linebacker Ben Gorman [51], now an assistant coach at his alma mater, brings down Rockets' running star Henry Deters [34]. Gorman's day would have been better on November 15 if Unity had not stunned St. Joseph-Ogden High School 26-0 to win the quarterfinal matchup. Gorman led the team with 9 solo tackles and 4 assist. Deters career rushing record of 7,711 total yards and 518 points scored remains at the top of the Rockets' statistical records.

Ryan Cekander keeps the intensity high on the sidelines

Despite 40 degree temperatures and relentless drizzle, Unity senior Ryan Cekander keeps the intensity on the sidelines high for his team.

Unity quarterback Chuck Krause takes the snap to hand off the ball during the Rockets' home playoff game on Saturday.

SJO's Kiel Duval

Spartans' Kiel Duval, now an assistant coach under his father and math teacher at St. Joseph-Ogden, turns to hand off the ball to running back Daniel Widick.

. . . View all the photos from the 2003 playoff game here . . .


Traesha Worley shows her excitement

November 13, 2004 - St. Joseph, IL.- SJO's Traesha Worley shows her excitement after a big play by the SJO offense. Later Tolono Unity goes on to knock heavily-favored St. Joseph-Ogden from the playoffs with a 18-14 win to advance to a semi-final meeting against Driscoll Catholic High School.

Unity Rockets' Dane Paul

Unity's Dane Paul tries to break up a SJO pass play. Paul went on to finish his career with 4,675 yards, currently #5 on the list of the Rockets' all-time rushing leaders. Click here to see 19 more photos of Paul playing Unity football.

SJO star tailback Mark Gones

Spartans' Mark Gones, a three-sport athlete for SJO, makes a drive sustaining catch despite the efforts of Rockets' defender Dane Paul.

Mark Gones scores SJO touchdown

Spartans' Mark Gones celebrates SJO's first touchdown of the game.

. . . Check out more photos from the 2004 playoff game . . .


Scott Rasher and Collin Davis

November 12, 2005 - Tolono, IL - Scott Rasher and Collin Davis, today an assistant coach for his alma mater, celebrate a big play for the Rockets. Tied at seven a piece when regulation play ended, Unity knocked off St. Joseph-Ogden after a thrilling double-overtime heartbreaker, 21-20.

Brad Allen

Spartans' assistant coach Brad Allen, today the Principal at Tuscola High School, watches his offensive line unit with a careful eye during second half action against the Rockets. The two teams played their hearts out in a thriller that will be talked about for years.

SJO player, now coach in 2005

SJO lineman Nick Bialeschki takes time on the bench for a water break. The senior played the last game of his prep football career in a thrilling double-overtime heartbreaker between the two of the top five Class 3A teams in the state. Like Kiel Duval and Collin Davis, Bialeschki, now coaching with his former high school program, will be on the sidelines this Saturday with the Spartans.

Zach Becker and Dustin Woodworth

Rockets' Dustin Woodworth tries to slip from the grasp of Spartans' Zach Becker in a thrilling double-overtime playoff heartbreaker between the two of the top five Class 3A teams in the state. After high school Becker later walked on to become a member of the Fighting Illini football program.

. . . See more 2005 playoff game photos here . . .


November 4, 2006 - St. Joseph, IL - Spartans' Mark Gones chases down Unity's Matt Correa on a big play for the Rockets. After defeating Unity 21-17, St. Joseph-Ogden advances to face Decatur St. Teresa in a quarterfinal matchup and later advanced to play in a record-setting Class 3A state title game against Plano.

SJO dance team performs at halftime

Members of the Spartan Dance Team, including Nikki Becker, Sophi Gallo, Kortney Kourtney and Tara Jackson perform during halftime.

SJO fans

Spartan football fans [left to right] Danny Enro, Chris Collenberger, Tom Wilson, and Kent Robbins mug for the camera while watching the playoff against the Unity game Rockets from along the fence line at St. Joseph-Ogden High School.

Spartans' Tommy Rohl takes one on the chin for the Spartans while battle at the line of scrimmage with Rockets' Matt Paeth. Now serving in our nation's military, Rohl anchored one of St. Joseph-Ogden's best group of linemen the program has seen.

. . . View all the photos from the 2006 playoff game here . . .


Louis Acklin, a three-sport athlete for the Spartans.

November 13, 2010 - St. Joseph, IL - Louis Acklin, a three-sport athlete for the Spartans now playing baseball at Illinois Wesleyan University, rolls out looking for an open receiver. The sophomore quarterback stepped in earlier in the season after both the first string and back-up quarterbacks were injured in the third game of the season. Unity powered through host St. Joseph-Ogden 41-20 in the Saturday evening Class 3A playoff game. Despite early season injuries to several key players, the Spartans finish a respectable 9-3 on the season.

Rockets' Michael Lafenhagen scores

Rockets' Michael Lafenhagen scores a TD despite efforts from St. Joseph-Ogden's Andy Bensyl (left) and an unidentified fellow lineman. The Rockets advanced to face Stillman Valley, who beat them in last year's state title game.

Jake Bock breaks a tackle

Spartans' Jake Bock breaks a tackle attempt by Rockets' Henry LeCrone during second quarter action in their game Saturday evening. Bock, who later was awarded all-conference honors in the Sangamon Valley Conference, finished the game with just 54 yards.

Spartans' Will Firkins carries the ball for SJO

Spartans' Will Firkins carries the ball to the 27 yard line for a first down after making a catch. Firkins is tackled from behind by Rockets' Ryan McCoskey while teammate Tyler Bialeschki looks on.

. . . View all the photos from the 2010 playoff game here . . .

November 17, 2015

Spartans Eject Saints From Postseason

St. Joseph-Ogden's defense proved once again they are a force not to be overlooked. Holding a very athletic and larger Bloomington Central Catholic football squad, who entered the game with 10 consecutive wins, to just 112 net rushing yards and 162 yards in the air, the Spartans seized the game after Central quarterback Jake Baughman's pass was picked off in the red zone late in the contest by Wesley Kibler.

The 4th quarter interception on the 9-yard line set up the Spartans final score of the IHSA quarterfinal game on a 56-yard gallop by senior running back Ty Brown. After the failed extra point attempt, SJO enjoyed a 26-14 lead.

Getting the ball down the field quickly, the Saints found the end zone with an 8-yard keeper by Baughman with barely five minutes left in the game. Closing the scoring gap after the PAT, BCC trailed 26-21 with plenty of time to rally back to eliminate the #1 ranked Class 3A team from the playoffs.

Retiring head coach Dick Duval put the Spartan offensive in clock control mode after receiving the kick allowing generous portions of time, crucial to any Central Catholic comeback attempt, to tick off the clock.

The Saints once regain control of the ball with 1:55 left in the game and the Spartan defense kicked their play up another notch. Using their superior speed off the snap, the SJO defensive line buoyed by senior Shane Skinner, stuffed one rush and disrupted three pass attempts to seal the 26-21 victory at Bill Hundman Field.

Duval (pictured below) earned his 251st win and 11th victory of St. Joseph-Ogden's undefeated season. Below are 12 of our favorite photos from the game.

Casey Reveal

November 14, 2015 - Bloomington, IL - Spartans' Casey Reveal celebrates as he runs to the sidelines after his team breaks up a 4th and long pass play by the Saints trying to extend their last drive of their Class 3A quarterfinal game on Saturday. St. Joseph-Ogden ended Bloomington Central Catholic's season thanks to 26-21 victory. See more photos of Reveal in action here.

Brett Segobiano carries the ball

Saints' Brett Segobiano carries the ball in their Class 3A quarterfinal game against the Spartans.

SJO's Wesley Kibler celebrate his interception

Wesley Kibler celebrate his game-changing interception during St. Joseph-Ogden's playoff game against Central Catholic. Here's more pics of Kibler . . .

SJO's Eli Oltean punts

St. Joseph-Ogden's Eli Oltean punts the ball against Central Catholic. The signal caller completed 15 of 23 passes for one touchdown and 171 yards to help SJO advance to a semifinal showdown verses the Unity Rockets.

Cheering SJO fans

St. Joseph-Ogden student fan Emilee Sorensen roots for her team against Central Catholic along with more than 400 fellow spectators. See more fan photos from the season here. . .

SJO football fan

St. Joseph-Ogden football fan Katie Kurtz waves to fellow spectators before the start of the Spartans road playoff game against Central Catholic. Check out a dozen and a half more game photos here in our fan gallery.

SJO football fans cheer for the Spartans

Fans from the St. Joseph-Ogden cheer for their team during SJO's road game against Central Catholic. Fans will have another week to cheer when the team faces long time rival Unity next Saturday.

Jake Pence makes a catch for SJO

Jake Pence makes a catch for St. Joseph-Ogden in the first quarter against Central Catholic. Pence (see more game photos here) made four catches for 53 yards and scored on an 11-yard play to help power the Spartans to the next round of the IHSA playoffs.

Grant Harper blocks Matthew Blaney.

Spartan junior Grant Harper blocks Saints lineman Matthew Blaney during their Class 3A quarterfinal game.

Austin Luebchow wraps up Ryan Zitkus

Spartans' Austin Luebchow wraps up Saints' Ryan Zitkus during second half action.

After tallying his 251th win of his career, St. Joseph-Ogden head coach Dick Duval talks to his team after the Spartans' quarterfinal football game against Central Catholic. Duval, who will retire at the end of the season, strategically coached his team to victory improving to 12-0 and punched the Spartans ticket to the semifinal round against long time rival Tolono Unity.

November 2, 2015

Unity wins XC team title, Keller does it again

It was a dark and drizzle Saturday morning at the Hickory Point Golf Course in Forsyth for runners in the St. Teresa cross-country sectional meet.

Five teams advanced to next weekend's finale at Detweiller Park led by the Unity Rockets who finished first with 74 points. Also with 74 points was Urbana U-High led by Arielle Summitt and Annemarie Michael, finish 2 and 3 respectively behind the blazing fast, 2-time state champion Anna Sophia Keller from Effingham St. Anthony. St. Joseph-Ogden, winners of last year's Class 1A team title, placed 3rd overall with 90 points.

Keller enjoyed a stress free 3-peat sectional performance crossing the finish line more than a minute ahead of her closest competitor. The day was even sweeter for the junior who shaved more than 11 or more off her previous two sectional title runs.

Below is a recap for a few of the top finishers and runners from state qualifier. Click here to see more photos from the meet.

Anna Sophia Keller runs her second loop

St. Anthony's Anna Sophia Keller runs her second loop around the course during the Decatur sectional cross-country meet in Decatur on Saturday. Keller, who is the state record holder and two-time champion in Class 1A, cruised to a first place at 16:32:18, more than 11 seconds better than her 2014 time on the same course. Next weekend, the junior has her eye set on adding a third Illinois High School Association state title to her collection at the state meet on Saturday. See more photos of Keller from this race and others here.

Morgan Elmore runs her final lap to qualify for state.

Monticello's Morgan Elmore runs her final lap of the course. The sophomore qualified to run as an individual at this year's state meet after turning in a time of 18:45.70. The Sages fell short of their return bid finishing seventh in the team standings.

Long distance runner Faith Houston

St. Joseph-Ogden's Faith Houston, who was a member of last year's state title squad, glances at spectators along the course as she runs during her first lap of her race around the course on Saturday. The sophomore distance runner was the second Spartan to cross the finish line helping her team to a third-place team finish and advancement to the state meet next Saturday. Houston circumvented the course in 18 minutes, 40.01 seconds to finish 9th overall and 8th in the team standings. See more running photos of Houston from the sectional meet here.

Uni-High and Pana runners increase their lead on the field

University High's Arielle Summitt (see more photos) and teammate Annemarie Michael along with Pana's Claudia Magnussen increase their lead on the rest of the field. Summitt, who is a sophomore and finished second at 17:38.89, helped the Illineks to tie with the favored Unity Rockets for the team title. Michael took third place while Magnussen finished in fourth place.

On the heels of Unity's Miranda Fairbanks, St. Joseph-Ogden senior Abby Gawthorp runs the second loop around the course. The Spartan distance runner, who was part of last year's state title squad, helped her team to a third-place team finish advancing to the state meet next Saturday. Gawthorp finished 24th overall with a time of 19:34.98.

Jordan Harmon

Rockets' Jordan Harmon runs to a 5th place overall finish Saturday morning. Harmon's outstanding performance helped Unity edge out Urbana University High for first place team trophy. Both advance Saturday's state final at Detweiller Park in Peoria on November 7. See more photos of Harmon in action here.

October 31, 2015 - Forsyth, IL - Staying ahead of Unity's Jordan Harmon and University High's Annemarie Michael on the first lap of their race, St. Joseph-Ogden's Hayley Grice runs strong early in her race. Grice, who turned in a time of 18:36.65, led the Spartans ladies' to the finish line finishing in sixth place overall.