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Warren's Colton Janssen closes in on Mooseheart running back Peter Mator (No. 5) in the the team's first round game in the IHSA Class 1A playoffs. Mooseheart won the game 34-24 and hosts Stark County on Saturday at 4 p.m. in a second round contest.
UPDATE FOR RED RAMBLERS FANS OUTSIDE THE CHICAGO REGION:
With the October 27 technical difficulties having been resolved (keep your fingers crossed!), Saturday's 2nd-round playoff game between Mooseheart and Stark County will feature a full audio-video game Internet broadcast, at http://www.ihsa.tv/mooseheart! Bringing you play-by-play and game commentary, respectively, will be Moose International Director of Communications Kurt Wehrmeister and Mooseheart Director of Admissions Kyle Rife. So -- if you're so equipped in your Moose home, bring the game up on your Social Quarters big screens! The broadcast will begin shortly before 4 p.m. Central time (2 p.m. Pacific / 3 p.m. Mountain / 5 p.m. Eastern)!
MOOSEHEART, IL Oct. 30 - One thing’s for certain - a group of fans wearing red will be very happy on Saturday night after Mooseheart’s second round Class 1A playoff game with Stark County.
Either the traveling throng supporting the visiting Rebels, or coast-to-coast fans of the homestanding Red Ramblers will be pleased at the end of this contest that starts at 4 p.m. at Mooseheart’s stadium.
Stark County (8-2) is one of the most successful small-school programs in Illinois. This year marks their 17th straight year in the IHSA playoffs. The Rebels finished second in Class 1A in 1997 as well as 2008. Last year, Head Coach Jade Noard took Stark County to the Class 2A seminfinals before losing to eventual champion Morrison.
“It is going to be a great opportunity,” Mooseheart coach Gary Urwiler said. “You’re talking about an established program. It’s a very experienced football community as well as their team. This is not new territory for them.”
Stark County played the same team - Monmouth United in the final week of the regular season and then in the opening round of the playoffs. After a 28-0 victory in Week 9, the Rebels defeated Monmouth United 28-14 last Friday.
With Mooseheart playing on Saturday, the Ramblers staff was able to watch the Stark County-Monmouth game - just as Noard and his staff attended Mooseheart’s 34-24 victory over Warren.
“They have a nice team,” Urwiler said. “They’re well-rounded and they play tough football. They’re going to come here with one thing in mind, and that’s to get closer and closer to the state championship.”
Mooseheart (9-1) is playing a second playoff game for the third time in program history. The 1985 Ramblers team lost 14-7 to Durand after winning its first 10 games while the 2011 Mooseheart squad fell 34-0 to Peru St. Bede after an opening round win against Princeville.
“I remember when the mindset here was ‘I think we can make the playoffs,’” Urwiler said. “Now it’s ‘I expect to make the playoffs.’ We want to reach a point where we are aspiring to be to be a state champion. We’re moving in the right direction.”
In the last two seasons, Mooseheart is 19-2, and that has helped take Urwiler’s career coaching record to 76-54. A 1987 Mooseheart graduate, Urwiler has heard many times how the Ramblers are undersized when compared to their opponent. That is again the case on Saturday when the Rebels have a number of players heavier than the beefiest Ramblers.
“We’re not a very big team, but we find ways to get it done with what we have,” Urwiler said. “Many of the teams in our storied history have been small in stature but have been known to be tough football players for our size.”
One area where the teams are on equal footing is at quarterback. Stark County’s Justin Kohler is a three-year starter who threw for two TDs in last week’s win over Monmouth and is also a solid punter.
Mooseheart’s Jonathon Hart is also a three-year starter who has thrown for 1,294 yards, 15 TDs and 6 interceptions. He has completed 62 percent of his passes this season. Hart is also the son of Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart -- whose family resides on campus by virtue of his 24/7 position. While the younger Hart is not a conventional Mooseheart student in the sense that his presence at the school was not sponsored by a Moose Lodge, Urwiler said Jonathon Hart is 100 percent a Rambler.
“He was born here and he was raised here,” Urwiler said. “He has developed friendships here on campus and he has attended many functions on campus. You’re looking at a kid who really understands giving back and what it means to be a Moose member and how that all goes together on our campus.”
Hart saw very limited time in the regular season as a freshman in 2009, but was thrown into the fire in that season’s playoff game, which the Ramblers lost 42-6 at Dakota. Hart completed both passes he attempted, including one for a 32-yard completion.
“We were just talking about that game this week and Dakota was his first chance to show what he could do,” Urwiler said. “We were having troubles throwing a pass into to the flat. At the time, I’m sure Jonathon thought we were nuts. But here comes this freshman and he completed the pass.”
At that time, Hart looked every bit a freshman and not a varsity field general. Over the past three seasons - all of which he was the starter - Hart has grown and improved.
“He’s a competitor and he works to win,” Urwiler said. “We saw him all the way back in middle school and we knew we wanted him to be a quarterback. He was small and didn’t have any arm strength and he couldn’t throw the ball more than 5-10 yards.”
Much of that comes down to a desire to work - and to work on his own - to improve. On the day the Ramblers received their equipment, and after receiving his own gear, Hart ran a series of patterned drills on his own on the field while his teammates picked up their own jerseys and helmets. That was not the first nor the last time Hart had spent extra time on his own on the football field.
“This summer, we would get together to do our weight work,” Uwiler said. “And then I would leave and the players would leave and he would be out there on his own, throwing the ball, doing rollouts and working on his steps - doing the mental and physical part of the game by himself.”
In Mooseheart’s Oct. 27 victory over Warren, Hart was 25-for-33 for 294 yards and 4 TDs. He also showed the ability to overcome adversity that the best quarterbacks exhibit. Late in the first half, with the Ramblers driving for a touchdown, Hart threw an interception at the goal line that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown.
“He came over to the sidelines after throwing that interception, and said: ‘We’ll be all right,’” Urwiler said.
Mooseheart took the ensuing kickoff and worked upfield in six plays and scored when Hart hit Sahr Mahoney for a 5-yard TD reception.
“He’s definitely got a calm demeanor about him,” Urwiler said. “He knows where teams are going to try to attack us. He’s human and he is going to make mistakes. But he also has a good feel for the game.”
IHSA Class 1A Playoff pairings
All games played Saturday, Nov. 3
#=IHSA Seeding. Records are in parenthesis.
#1 Stockton (10-0) at #9 Galena (7-3), Sat., Nov. 3, 1 pm
#5 Lena-Winslow (8-2) at #13 Chicago Hales Franciscan (7-3), 2 pm
#7 Forreston (8-2) at #2 Ottawa Marquette (10-0), 6 pm
#6 Stark County (8-2) at #3 Mooseheart (9-1), 4 pm
#1 LeRoy (10-0) at #9 Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland (8-2), 2 pm
#5 Moweaqua Central A & M (9-1) at #4 Concord Triopia (9-1), 1 pm
#7 Villa Grove (9-1) at #2 Maroa-Forsyth) (9-1), 1 pm
#6 Salt Fork Coop (9-1) at #3 Carrollton (9-1), 2 pm
Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 72-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $70 million worth of community service programs annually
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 200 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.