After six teams from the Rockford area and another 13 locals progressed past last weekend’s regionals and into sectionals, bowling season is nearing its peak.
For the first time in two years, there will be an Illinois High School Association state tournament. The guys from Harlem, Hononegah and Freeport have all shown they are ready to run for a championship with powerful runs through regional competitions.
The girls’ bowling season kicks off with the Harlem Regional on February 5. But the boys are already working on it.
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“Last year there was no postseason for us, so this is big,” said Hononegah coach Brad Sommer. “It’s time for us to stop coming second this year.”
After Hononegah came in second in the national tournament last summer, Harlem defeated Hononegah by 30 pins in his regular season duo to take the NIC-10 title, putting Hononegah in second place. The Huskies, while graduating last year’s last IHSA individual state champion Ethan Pash, also relegated Hononegah to second place in five tournaments this season.
That includes Saturday’s regional, where Jermarrion Simmons led the Huskies to victory with a regional best (and a season best for him) 1,424 series.
“I had a terrible game a few days before the regional games and I said to myself, ‘Jermarrion, you have to be better, you have to be a better leader,'” said Simmons. “It’s a great feeling to bowl so well in a big place. We’ve shown teams that Harlem is here, we’re ready to compete and we’re not giving up.”
With only two boys’ tournaments to go — starting with the Hononegah Sectional on Saturday at Viking Lanes and ending with the State Finals at O’Fallon on January 28-29 — let’s see who’s excited about the stretch.
Here are the top 15 boy bowlers to watch heading to sectionals and state, in alphabetical order:
Wyatt Anderson, Belvidere
The junior was one of three Bucs to roll over 1,200 in the Boylan Regional, which moved Belvidere to fourth as a team and advancing to the sections as a squad. Anderson threw a 1,247 run, averaging over 207 per game, after averaging 194 during the regular season.
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Johnny Carter, Belvidere
The junior led the way for Belvidere with a 1,264 series at regionals. He led the team with a 209 average during the season, then averaged over 210 in last weekend’s tournament.
Justin Curtis, Belvidere North
The junior was not one of four Belvidere North bowlers averaging over 200 during the regular season. But he found a way to really raise it in regional competitions, with a 1,362 for an average of 227.
Charlie Hunt, Hononegah
Hunt rolled a 1,286 run to push Hononegah into second place in Saturday’s Boylan Regional. Using his two-handed bowling style, Hunt has been one of the league’s most consistent bowlers this year, averaging 218, finishing fourth all year.
“He’s just been one of the most stable bowlers this year and I expect him to hold out,” Sommer said of Hunt. “He’s really found his way with that two-handed style, and we’re looking for big things from him.”
Isaac Kaltenbrun, Oregon
While it wasn’t enough to bring Oregon to sectionals as a team, Kaltenbrun rolled a 1,204 series and continued as an individual. The senior will try to make it through in this weekend’s section.
Connor Mooney, Hononegah
Now a senior, Mooney has been up and down this regular season, but he rolled 1,293 series on Saturday, second best on the team and 10th best in the field.
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Logan Moore, Hononegah
This junior rolled the Boylan Regional’s third best run with a 1.366, and he continues to go big in big tournaments.
Sam Moran, Belvidere North
Moran had the highest average of any NIC-10 bowler during the regular season, then rolled a 1,297 on Saturday to send the Blue Thunder to third in their region. Moran is considered one of the top medalists in the state if he bowls as he did in the postseason this season.
Chad Morgan, Belvidere
The sophomore threw a 1.258 on Saturday. He averaged 209 during the regular season.
Nathan Perkins, Belvidere North
With a 1,306 on sectionals and a 221 on the season average for a tie for second place in the conference, Perkins looks poised to show he belongs in the big tournaments.
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Kamdyn Raymond, Freeport
This junior led Freeport to the Sterling Regional title with a 1,311 run and finished second in that field. Raymond averaged 210 this season.
Eric Roberts, Haarlem
Roberts pulled it off with a 1,380 for Harlem in regional games, and he looked poised to help the Huskies get a deep run into the postseason. Roberts has been a key cog in Harlem’s depths this season, averaging 221 shared numbers in the league.
Braden foul, Harlem
Schuld rolled a strong 1,345 run at regional competitions and has been solid all season with a season average of 216. He is one of six Huskies averaging over 200 this regular season.
Jermarrion Simmons, Harlem
Simmons dominated in the regional games, with a season best 1,424 series, which is the second best series played in any region in Illinois this year. “This is just momentum, that’s all,” Simmons said. “But we’re going to use it. We want to use it until that state championship.”
Payton Worker, Freeport
This freshman led the team at a 217 average over the season, and he then stormed out and rolled a 1264 series at regional competitions to rekindle the pretzels. This is a bowler to watch for years to come.
Jay Taft: firstname.lastname@example.org; @TeamTaft