January 23, 2016

Skinner inline as SJO's head football coach

See morefrom the PhotoNews Media photo archive of Shawn Skinner here.

December 14, 2015

Blizzard Bowl editions now available

We promised two versions of our Big Picture special edition from the St. Joseph-Ogden - Unity postseason football game last month. Early . . . really early this morning the SJO edition hit the PhotoNews Media online magazine rack. Both editions are 48 pages featuring athletes, fans and coaches from the November 21, 2015 semifinal game that would send a member of the Okaw Valley Conference to the Class 3A title game six days later after Thanksgiving.

Both editions are packed with action capturing the essence of a game, the emotional moments and far less than ideal conditions for a high school playoff football game by two well-coached teams. Players and coaches, fans who were that day will remember this day forever, and with good reason. As of this post, it was both coldest, snowiest day so far this fall/winter season.

Here are the covers and a few pages from each edition. Click on the cover for the edition you want to see the entire issue. When you reach the magazine rack, look for the button that says, "Preview". Click it and see what the Big Picture is all about; B-I-G photos that bring back the moments the captured.

The St. Joseph-Ogden edition

This is the cover for the St. Joseph-Ogden version of the Blizzard Bowl Big Picture special edition. Click on the photo to see the entire issue. Here are more pages from this edition.

The Unity edition

Click cover to see the entire edition and look for the preview button.

Best kept secret

One of the best kept secrets about our special editions is you can order your copy of this Big Picture magazine with your favorite photo from inside on the cover.  For small upcharge, we'll move things around a bit inside and move the photo to the cover to create a personalized copy for your scrapbook, coffee table or collection of memorabilia from this season. Check out this limited edition we created featuring Zach Spencer on the cover. See the entire issue here.

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 . . .