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High-Stakes showdown: Ironmen face Normal West Wildcats in conference clash

Ironmen look to QB Beaty’s calm demeanor to lead Community in Week Three
Mr. Jeff Christopherson
The Ironmen look to Kyle Beaty’s calm demeanor to lead Community in Week Three.

The excitement is palpable as the Ironmen face off against the Normal West Wildcats in a game with conference title implications.

Community and West both enter the contest undefeated; West sits atop the conference standings at 2-0 after last week’s 35-14 win over the Bloomington Raiders. The Iron are 1-0 in Big 12 play following their 57-6 win against Champaign Central. 

Friday’s winner, Ironmen head Coach Mr. Jason Drengwitz said, is in a solid position to take home the Big 12 Title at the end of the season, which West shared with Peoria High last season.

Community recapturing the Big 12, Drengwitz said at the start of the 2023 campaign, comes down to how the Ironmen handle adversity.

They’ve had their share of off-field challenges–a nearly hour-and-a-half lightning delay in Week One, a bus breakdown in Week Two–they haven’t faced much this season after the first quarter of Week One, chalking up two dominant victories.

This week’s matchup looks to be a closer contest, as West’s offense averages 41 points a game, while holding opponents to 10.5.

To contain the Wildcats, Drengwitz said, the Ironmen will first have to contain their emotions.

“This week, the adversity is going to be our ability to keep our emotions in check,” the coach said. “Our guys are going to be excited to play.”

That excitement stems from the “bragging rights” on the line in any crosstown rivalry game.

It stems from last year, when West defeated the Iron 21-4, snapping Community’s nine-year winning streak against the Wildcats.

“Our guys are motivated because they were disappointed [by] how things went last year,” Drengwitz said

But the excitement goes beyond that.

Anytime Community plays West, Drengwitz said, the outcome has “big, big ramifications… for the conference, for [the] playoffs.”

And to win the conference, to make the playoffs, the Ironmen first have to win this week.

“The biggest thing that we try to do as a program is take every week individually,” Drengwitz said.

This week, Drengwitz said, “we know that there’s going to be moments where guys get really excited. We just have to keep those moments in check,” Drengwitz said. “We have to stay steady. That will be a key to the game for sure.”

The Iron must stay steady against an explosive Wildcat offense with some exciting playmakers. Playmakers like the tandem of quarterback Johnny Freymann and Sencerre Brown.

Last week, Freymann went 19 for 25 passes, throwing for 258 yards and four touchdowns.

Brown, a transfer from Community, was on the receiving end of three of them, hauling in eight receptions for 124 yards.

Freymann, a senior, is an impressive quarterback, Drengwitz said.

He has the “ability to make plays in the run game, and then the ability to improvise and scramble and keep his eyes downfield and make touchdown passes.”

Freymann showed that ability last week, connecting with Brown for a touchdown on a broken play.

“He’s a dual threat; he can run and pass,” Drengwitz said. “He’s able to evade pressure and then throw really, really accurate footballs.”

Who will the Iron look to keep the team steady Friday in front of a “big crowd” and “a great atmosphere”?

Junior quarterback Kyle Beaty.

Last season against West, when Community’s starting quarterback Chase Wiese left the game with a broken hand, Brady Augstin took the Iron’s snaps.

Now Beaty helms the Iron offense, starting the last nine games for Community.

“He’s very steady,” “not a super up and down guy,” Drengwitz said. “That is crucial” for a quarterback.

“When the ball is in your hands all the time, you’re going to make really good plays… And you’re going to make mistakes… And when you make mistakes at that position, everybody sees it. You’ve got to wipe the slate clean and go on to the next play.”

“Steady,” Drengwitz said, “that’s who Kyle is.”

“And in big games, against rivalries, against well-coached and talented teams like we’re playing,” Drengwitz said, “that’s going to be crucial to the success because [the] offense feeds off the emotions of [the] quarterback.”

After last year’s injury to Wiese, Community was forced to “be really simple and really basic” in their play calling against West.

Now, the entire playbook is at their disposal, a game plan that looks to get the ball to players like Mar’Quan Gary, Kayden Hardeman, Ivo Austin, Tommy Davis…

“Everything’s available to us,” Drengwitz said.

Beaty will likely look for Gary, a “special player with the ball in his hands,” who had three touchdowns of his own last week.

“He’s had a great start to the season, and he’s gonna be a vital part of what we do on offense on Friday,” Drengwitz said.

The Ironmen kick-off against Normal West on the road Friday at 7 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Jeffery Woodard
Jeffery Woodard, Senior Staff Reporter
Jeffery Woodard is a senior at Normal Community High School and is involved in track & field. This is his third year working with the Inkspot, and he is a senior staff reporter. On the weekends, I enjoy hanging out with friends and going to the gym. In my free time, I enjoy watching movies of all sorts. My favorite film is "Black Panther."
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