CHAMPAIGN — Tre’Vohn Crosby might be too young to be aware of Aretha Franklin’s signature tune, but his message after Friday night’s Battle of Champaign was straight out of the Queen of Soul’s songbook.
“Tonight was all about respect,” the Centennial junior running back said. “It was not a good season, obviously ... but we just kept fighting.
“As long as we keep going and put the last week behind us and try to win every game, that’s what matters.”
That type of resolve finally paid off in a 40-20 victory against winless Champaign Central at Tommy Steward Field, the Chargers’ first win since their season opener way back on Aug. 24.
“Both our teams have been down,” Centennial coach Mike McDonnell said, “and I knew our kids had it in them. We’ve been coming closer and closer every week and playing better and better.
“And I told them this is the week to put it over the top if you’re ever going to do it because this is the big win. And they came out and did it.”
Crosby played a major role in the outcome, rushing for 178 yards in 19 carries and scoring Centennial’s first two touchdowns on runs of 36 and 3 yards. The latter put the Chargers (2-6) ahead for good 14-7 in the second quarter.
“Crosby did a real nice job ,but don’t forget that offensive line did a heckuva job, too,” McDonnell said. “Crosby ran the ball very, very hard, very, very well, but that offensive line opened up some pretty good holes, so my hat’s off to both of them.”
Centennial’s rushing attack opened opportunities for its passing game, and the Chargers took advantage. Two of Centennial’s three touchdown passes came off of play-action calls. In both cases, quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald hooked up with Dustin Walls, producing scoring passes of 42 and 23 yards.
“If you can run the ball, you can win,” McDonnell said. “That’s the big thing. I’ve told the players that all year long. ... We thought we could come out and run the ball because other people have on Central, and we did it tonight.”
For at least one half, the Maroons (0-8) were their own worse enemy. Central turned the ball over five times in the first two quarters, including three on interceptions. Centennial linebacker Steven Lee returned one of those picks for a 10-yard touchdown.
But Central was a much different team in the second half, not turning the ball over once. And it made a difference, with the Maroons sustaining scoring drives of 63 and 51 yards.