BLOOMINGTON – Bloomington tailback Darrelynn Dunn's return to the backfield from a broken thumb spelled doom for Centennial on Friday.
The junior paced the Purple Raiders with 166 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-14 Big 12 Conference victory against the Chargers.
Bloomington was at risk of losing three straight games for the first time since 1985, but Centennial had no answer to Dunn's fresh legs.
"The three games they lost, they didn't have (Dunn)," Centennial coach Mike McDonnell said. "He makes the world of a difference in the game. It's something where he can take the ball to the end zone at any time."
Mikel Leshoure, meanwhile, never was able to get rolling against a defense that regularly put eight defenders near the line of scrimmage. Leshoure had 67 yards on 17 carries.
McDonnell said the Chargers were banged up on both lines.
"We were just coming out here to play," McDonnell said. "We had so many dings and dents in us that it was tough just trying to find 11 guys to play that weren't hurt."
Bloomington's focus on Leshoure resulted in a successful Charger passing attack. Senior quarterback Tyler Stefan completed 12 of 20 passes for 225 yards, highlighted by a 4-yard touchdown lob to a leaping Leshoure to bring the Chargers within 14-7 at the end of the first half.
But it wasn't enough.
"We made some mistakes we shouldn't have made," McDonnell said. "We don't make those mistakes in practice, but we came out here and made them."
Centennial now will be tested in order to qualify for the playoffs. The Chargers play at Mattoon before closing against Champaign Central. The Battle of Champaign could have serious playoff implications.
"I think we're going to be OK," McDonnell said. "I think we're going to bounce back and come back."