NORMAL – Mikel Leshoure has beaten a lot of teams with his rushing.
On Friday, with Centennial locked in a struggle against Normal West, the senior tailback did it with receiving.
Looking for a spark before halftime, Centennial quarterback Tyler Stefan heaved the ball down the field toward Leshoure, who leaped above a Normal West defender and jogged into the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown.
It gave Centennial a 14-7 lead en route to a 25-7 Big 12 Conference win.
"It was a big lift for us," Centennial coach Mike McDonnell said. "We were back on top. The guys went in believing in yourself, which when you have a young team is critical. They have to think they can win the game."
Leshoure finished with 118 yards rushing on 23 carries. But it was his catch that turned heads, the Chargers calling the play with 4.6 seconds left in the half.
"Oh, man, that was a huge momentum change," Leshoure said. "When we got that touchdown at the end of the half the momentum changed and came back into our favor. When we went into the locker room, a lot of people were really pumped up, including the coaching staff."
Leshoure had 61 yards rushing on the first drive, highlighted by a 47-yard scamper that set up his 3-yard touchdown run.
But Normal West limited the Chargers to 9 second-quarter yards. That is, until the final seconds of the first half.
"They changed their defense to stop the run, which let us throw," McDonnell said. "That's the thing you have to balance it out. That's really what gave us the big game passingwise."
Centennial limited the Wildcats to 19 yards of offense in the second half, forcing them to punt six times. Seemingly frustrated, Normal West committed nine penalties for 55 yards.
Stefan was 5 of 8 for 115 yards, one interception and the touchdown to Leshoure. Stefan also punted five times for an average of 34.2 yards, kicked a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter and converted on 2 of 3 extra point attempts.
Sophomore running back Rayvonte Rice showed Charger fans glimpses of the future and helped control the clock in the fourth quarter, carrying five times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
"Any time you come over to Bloomington-Normal and you beat one of these teams it's a great step," McDonnell said. "There's not an easy team over here.
"There's not a lightweight. They are all good, solid football teams."