Kenney High School "Hornets"

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Kenney High School Building - Side Angle View
Submitted by Dennis Downey

Kenney School Rear View 2014
Photo by Gerry Halpin

First Kenney High School building 1906-1921
Courtesy of Kev Varney (now a pipe organ factory)

The History of Kenney High School
Kenney (population 374) is located on IL Route 54 about eight miles southwest of its neighbor, Clinton. This places Kenney in southwestern DeWitt County about 35 miles west of Champaign. An interesting fact concerning Kenney (founded in 1871 by John Kenney) is that two lines of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad intersect in town.
Kenney High School existed as a four-year school from 1921 through 1955. It was started as a three-year school in 1906 with classes held in the Kenney Opera House. When the "new" high school building was built in 1921 designed by architect A.L. Pillsbury, Kenney High School became a four-year high school. Kenney High School served the town of Kenney for 34 years when the class of 1955 was the last senior class that graduated from KHS. Kenney was then annexed into the Clinton School District. We have learned, however, that Kenney High School may have been open through the 1956-57 school year.
The Kenney High School building served as a junior high and grade school for the Clinton school system through 1972. It was then vacated as a school and purchased by a private citizen. The building has sadly fallen into a sorry state of disrepair. It is said to be a still-proud building with a majestic look to it. Jon Wheat, who took the photos shown at the bottom of this page said he could see this once great buidling as far as two miles away before he reached the town of Kenney.
However, the Kenney Opera House (the original home of the high school) still remains in operation today as a pipe organ factory. Kenney alums still gather once a year in late March for a reunion and there is some memorablia of the high school located at the Kenney Community Center in the downtown district.
Kenney High School Quick Facts
Year opened:                1906 (as a three-year school)
Became a 4-yr school:  1921
Year closed:                 1955 (possibly 1957)
Last graduating class:  18 students
School nickname:         "Hornets"
School colors:               Blue & White (1920's to mid-1930's)
                                     Green & White (mid-1930's to 1955)
Name of Yearbook:       The "K" Echo
Name of paper:             The "Pupils' Pantagraph"
School Fight Song:        Hornet Cheer Song
               To Kenney High, the school we love
               Let's sing a song of praise
               Tell of her many victories won
               And high her banners raise.
               To glorify our dead old school
               And work for her with zest
               To show all the world around
               Our Kenney High's the best
               So let's join in a cheer
               While we're all gathered here
               Cheer for old Kenney High
               We're ready to fight
               For the Green (Blue) and White
               For dear old Kenney High (rah-rah-rah!)
               For her honor and fame
               And her glorious name
               We shall stand in a royal band
               So let's cheer, cheer
               The gang's all here
               All out for Kenney High!!!                              

KHS Letterman's sweater and basketball uniform
On display at the Kenney Community Center

Kenney High School definitely offered boys' basketball, as evidenced by the District and Regional titles the team earned in 1939. Kenney High School participated in the Logan-DeWitt County Conference. The school also offered baseball and track.
The Hornets had many great seasons during their existence. Though only one District and one Regional title were won in 1939 and placed the school within one game of the state tournament at Champaign, it is known that Kenney had several years of hardwood success. Those successful seasons are listed below. Several scores involkving Kenney High School participating in the annual IHSA State Tourney were located on a website titled "Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores."
1921-22              Decatur District Tournament      Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd lost to Dawson 13 - 12
                           Atwood beat Bethany in title game.
1932-33              Lincoln District Tournament      Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd lost to Williamsville 31-14
                           Mt. Pulaski beat McLean in title game.
1933-34              Lincoln District Tournament      Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd Beat Middletown 29-26.
                           2nd Rd lost to Lincoln 34-17.
                           Mt. Pulaski beat Lincoln in title game.
1934-35              Lincoln District Tournament      Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd Beat McLean 31-28.
                           2nd Rd lost to Mt. Pulaski 50-17.
                           Mt. Pulaski beat Hartsburg in title game.
1935-36   11 - 9  Maroa District Tournament       Coach John Miller.
                           1st Rd Beat Illiopolis 26-19 
                           Semi-Final lost to Wapella 53-31
                           Maroa beat Wapella in title game.

Kenney HS Basketball Schedule 1935-36
Submitted by Oaul Kostka

1936-37    15 - 5        Clinton Regional Tournament           Coach John Miller
                                   1st Rd lost to Decatur 46-18
                                   Decatur beat Clinton in title game

Kenney HS Basketball Schedule 1936-37
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1937-38        17 - 4      IHSA District Tournament                   Coach John Miller
                                    1st Rd Beat Iroquois County Cissna Park 45-17
                                    2nd Rd lost to Weldon 34-24
*Heyworth Invitational Tournament Champs during regular season.

Kenney High School Basketball Schedule 1937-38
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1938-39    28-3   Logan-DeWitt Conf. Champs   Coach John Miller
                           Wapella District Champions 
                           1st Rd Beat Deland 40-20
                           Semi-Final Beat Downs 39-14
                           Title Game Beat Waynesville 40-10  
                           Clinton Regional Runner-Up
                           1st Rd Beat Maroa 31-23
                           Semi-final Beat Weldon 25-22
                           Title Game lost to Clinton 24-16.
                           Top 2 From Regional Advance to Sectional
                           Taylorville Sectional Tourney
                           1st Rd Beat Springfield in OT, 29-27
                           Semi-Final Lost to Gillespie. 27-21
                           Gillespie beat Divernon in title game

Kenney HS Basketball Champs 1938-39
Submitted by Paul Kostka

Kenney HS Sectional Rosters 1939
Submitted by Paul Kostka

Kenney HS County Tourney Champs 1938-39
Submitted by Paul Kostka

Defeat Farmer City in Championship Game, 16-8
Centerpiece Photo of the team, Caption: 
Front Row -- L. Bartels, C. Roby, F. Abbott, H. Henderson, B. Todd;
Back Row -- Mgr. Holtz, J. Ballew, A. Mears, H. Roney, G. Henderson, C. Kincaid, Coach Miller.  D. Wilson rangy center of the team, is not shown in the picture. 
Centerpiece Photo of coach, Title:  THAT WINNING SMILE, Caption:  Coach Johnny Miller of the Kenney basketball squad wore a still wider grin Saturday night. 
 Wild enthusiasm reigned Saturday night on the Kenney gym floor as the local school quintet whipped Farmer City in the DeWitt county basketball tourney championship game 16 to 8, to win their first county championship. 
 The Kenney cagers were among the several other teams playing the underdog role to Weldon which had been picked by the daily newspapers to win the tourney.  The showing of the local quintet was all that its backers could ask for all through the tourney and the climax, which came when they faced the strong Farmer City aggregation, was enough to send their backers into a wild jamboree after the game.
  Cool, Fast Game
  The game was pronouced by followers of the county tourneys as the best and cleverest played in the history of these events.  The cool calculating play of the players on both teams was matched with a display of strategy on the part of Coach Johnny Miller of Kenney that was the cleverest we have ever seen.  "Popeye" Ballew (so-called by the fans about us) was the hero of the hour as he sank three baskets out of four attempts despite the fact that he was the midget of the tourney.  His shots broke the tight defense of Farmer City and enabled other team members to go in for short baskets. 
 The small number of fouls called against either team was remarkable considering the smallness of the floor and the rapid handling of the ball.  Farmer City had 5 and Kenney 4. 
  Farmer City Doubles Score
Farmer City doubled the score on the Kenney in the first period but that isn't near as bad as it sounds for the former had only two free tosses to their credit against Kenney's one.  The defense of both teams was airtight and the passing of the Kenney team was exceptionally good, with very few wild ones. 
 Roby scored first for Kenney on a foul by Coleman, getting one toss.  Roby in turn fouled Coleman, who evened the count, sinking his.  Shots by Roby and Rollins missed and Rollins scored a free toss on Wilson's foul.  Rollins then fouled Todd on the next play but he failed to connect.  The rest of the period was devoted to thirteen basket attempts by both teams with neither scoring, to end the quarter 2-1, Farmer City. 
  Kenney Grabs Lead
 The second period was a reversal of the first with Kenney getting two points and holding their opponents scoreless.  The first two plays were fouls by each team.  Watson fouled Todd, and Roby fouled Coleman but both failed to make their tosses good. 
 Ballew, the little chap who was to turn an airtight ball game into a near rout, was inserted in place of Henderson.  His teammates, who were unable to break thru Farmer City's zone, maneuvered them out of position enough to pass to Ballew way out on the side.  His first one missed but that was the last one that did.  His next one didn't touch the rim and went thru.  It seemed to excite both teams and they each wasted six shots as the play speeded up.  Roby committed his third foul and Roney went in.  With 11 seconds to go Kenney called time out but their conversation didn't net them a point as the half ended 3-2, Kenney. 
  Ballew Hits Twice
Ballew was almost the entire third quarter when he completely demoralized the Farmer City defense with two more of his long shots from the side. 
 Play had no more than started, than clever ball handling got the defense off stride and Ballew slipped in a long one.  Wilson, rangy center, recovered a jump ball and went in for a short shot that scored a basket.  Farmer City was again out of position when Abbott shot a fast one to Ballew on the side and he swished
(Continued on page 3)
(Continued from page 1)
the net for his third long one.  Coleman's shot was in and out and then Watson sank a long one from the side as Cahal went in for Rollins.  Farmer City took time out twice in this period, after each of Ballew's shots.  The third period ended 9-4, Kenney. 
  Kenney Widens Margin
 Farmer City was now playing a man-to-man defense and Coach Miller showed his smartness by sending in Roby to replace Ballew and get more height.  Roby went in for a nice dribble and scored as Farmer City's defense came out to force the issue.  Score 11-4, Kenney.  Coleman went in to score a short onehander for Farmer City and Wilson came back with a one-hand leaping shot that scored.  Watson stole the ball and went down for a setup to score the last points made by his team.  Rollins fouled Roby who sank his free toss.  Farmer City tried several hurried shots that missed and then Abbott came in for a short one to score.  Walden fouled Wilson, who missed as the game ended, 16-8, Kenney -- and the championship. 
  Trophy Awards
 The trophies were awarded at the close of the tourney as follows: 
 Shaver of Weldon received the rotating trophy which went to the player making the highest percentage of free throws, Shaver making 41 out of 50.  This tropy was won by Wapella in 1935, Kenney in 1936 and Wapella in 1937. 
 Championship -- Kenney. 
 Second place -- Farmer City. 
 Third place --  Weldon
 First place, Second Teams -- Farmer City. 
 Second place -- Wapella
 Wapella, Waynesvile and Weldon each won one game and lost three so it was necessary in the Round robin setup to determine the winner on the basis of points, which showed Weldon high with 114, Waynesville 88, and Wapella 83. 
 Farmer City was the defending champion having won the DeWitt county tourney last year at Wapella. 
 Joe Ward, colored whistle tooter from Mansfield, and I. Means of Atwood, did a mighty fine job of whistle and fans were well pleased with their work. 
 E. H. Burdock, principal of Kenney high, and manager of the tourney did a fine job of administrating the many details connected with a tourney of this kind and the treatment visiting teams and fans received came in for considerable praise. 
 The Kenney Clown Band, under the direction of C. Scudder, performed faithfully and added to the spirit of enthusiasm. 
  Wapella Buys Basketball
 The coach of the grade school at Wapella bought the basketball used in the championship game, when it was auctioned off at the close of the tourney.

Kenney HS Basketball Schedule 1938-39
Submitted by Paul Kostka

Kenney HS Sectional Tourney Article
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1939-40     23 - 6      Wapella District Tournament                Coach John Miller.
                                  1st Rd Beat Deland 62-31
                                  Semi-Final Beat WELDON 20-17   
                                  Title Game lost to Wapella 22-19
                                  *Top two teams from District advanced to Regional
                                  IHSA Regional Tournament
                                  1st Rd Beat Argenta 29-28
                                  Semi-Final lost to Clinton 12-7
*Team won conference and county championships.

Kenney High School Basketball Team 1939-40
Submitted by Paul Kostka

Kenney High School Basketball Schedule 1939-40
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1940-41   13 - 15   Wapella District Tournament                    Coach John Miller.
                              1st Rd beat Downs 27-22
                              Semi-final lost to Deland 49-37
                              Wapella beat Deland in title game
                              Team placed 2nd in DeWitt County Tourney

Kenney High School Basketball Schedule 1940-41
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1941-42       3 - 25        IHSA District Tourney                   Coach John Miller

Kenney High School Basketball Schedule 1941-42
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1942-43    10 - 9   Wapella District Tournament                       Coach John Miller
                              1st Rd beat Shirley Ben Funk 39-23
                              Semi-final lost to Heyworth 44-37
                              Wapella beat Heyworth in title game
*2nd Team was 6-4

Kenney High School Basketball Schedule 1942-43
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1943-44   13 - 10     Wapella District Tourney Runner-Up    Coach John Miller 
                                1st Rd Beat Downs 51-29
                                Semi-Final Beat Deland 28-21 
                                Title Game lost to Weldon 48-32
*2nd Team finished 11-7.

Kenney High School Basketball Schedule 1943-44
Submitted by Paul Kostka

1944-45   1 - 21   Wapella District Tournament                        Coach John Miller
                            1st Rd lost to Waynesville 58-16
                            Deland beat Heyworth in title game

Kenney High Schol Basketball Schedule 1944-45
Submitted by Paul Kostka

*Great Coach
Coach John Miller spent 10 seasons as the head coach of the Kenney High School "Hornets." Coach Miller's teams had an overall record of 134 wins and 107 losses, a 57% winning percentage. He was the head coach of arguably the best season in Kenney HS history when the team went 28-3 in 1938-39, advancing all the way to the semi-final of the Sectional Tournament. This team won their first 16 games of the season with their only losses coming in tournament games, 2 of these in the IHSA State Tourney. The Hornets that season defeated Springfield High School, a school many times larger in enrollment, 29-27 in overtime in the 1st Rd of the Sectional!
After he left Kenney HS, John Miller became the principal and basketball coach at Valier Community High School from the 1945-46 to the 1947-48 seasons.
1945-46              Wapella District Tournament       Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd beat Shirley Ben Funk 62-29
                           Semi-final lost to Heyworth 39-34
                           Deland beat Heyworth in title game
1946-47              Wapella District Tournament       Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd lost to Heyworth 56-43
                           Deland beat Heyworth in title game
1947-48              Wapella District Tournament       Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd lost to Deland 68-38
                           Deland beat Heyworth in title game
1948-49              Waynesville District Tourn.         Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd beat Wapella 38-28
                           Semi-final lost (score needed)
1949-50              Waynesville District Tourney       Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd lost to Deland-Weldon 46-26
                           Maroa beat Wapella in title game
1950-51              Waynesville District Tourn.         Coach's name & record needed.
                           1st Rd beat Waynesville 47-37
                           Semi-final lost to Argenta 54-44
                           Argenta beat Beason in title game.
1951-52  13-12   Waynesville District Tourn.         Coach Dick Irvin
                           1st Rd beat Wapella 27-17
                           Semi-final lost to McLean 60-59
                           Beason beat McLean in title game
1952-53              Argenta District Tourney             Coach Dick Irvin
                           Semi-final lost to Waynesville 64-58
                           Beason beat Waynesville in title game
1953-54  24-  3   Argenta District Runner-Up      Coach Dick Irvin
                           Title Game lost to Argenta 75-56
1954-55  16-11   (last year of school)                      Coach Dick Irvin
                            District Scores Needed

Dean Padgett
Prolific scorer at Kenney between 1950-54 (courtesy of Don Raycraft)

One of the top players of the early 1950's in Central Illinois hailed from Kenney. Dean Padgett played four years for the Hornets, amassing 1,782 points in his career. In his senior season alone (1953-54), Padgett averaged 31.0 points per game on 838 points. He later went on to star at Illinois Wesleyan, then came back to teach and coach at the high school level at Beason.
Kenney was competitive on the diamond, coming home with many wins to show for their effort during the spring seasons, especially in the late 1930's and early-mid 1950's.
1937    5-1                                  Coach John Miller
1938    6-1                                  Coach John Miller
1939    4-1                                  Coach John Miller
1947    4-2                                  Coach (?) Rose
1952    6-3                                  Coach Dick Irvin
1953    5-2                                  Coach Dick Irvin
1954    4-2                                  Coach Dick Irvin
1955            Last season             Coach Dick Irvin
The Hornets did field a team from time to time for the cinder track, and did come home with a respectable honor at the 1923 DeWitt County Tournament.
1923        3rd place at DeWitt County Meet   Coach Silas Crocker              
From Atlanta HS alum Kent Young:
"Kenney High School was a member of the Logan County Conference. They had great basket ball players in the early 50's. Some of the names were Eldon Johnson, Dick Travis, and probably the best was Dean Padgett, who went on to star at Illinois Wesleyan and coach in Decatur."

Kenney High School
courtesy of Kenney Community Center

goes out to Virginia Abshire, who helped us obtain further information about the schools' history at the Kenney Community Center. The center has a room set aside for showing the history of the school as well as the community, with numerous photos, trophies, monogram letters, uniforms, and pictures of several graduating classes from Kenney HS.
If You Can Assist Us... any manner regarding the history of Kenney High School, please complete a Guest Commentary Form. You can email us at or write to us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il.  60631

Kenney School Gym & Stage 2014
Photo by Gerry Halpin (Left click on photo for larger view.)

Kenney School Gym 2014
Photo by Gerry Halpin (Left click on photo for larger view.)

Entrance to Kenney High School 2006

Kenney High School--early 2006
courtesy of Jon Wheat