Leshoure up to speed
CHAMPAIGN – Compared to the lofty standards he has established, Centennial's Mikel Leshoure was relatively quiet during the first two weeks of the prep football season.
He rushed for 118 and 101 yards in a pair of victories. But Friday against outmanned Decatur Eisenhower, the area's premier running back busted loose.
Leshoure rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns in barely more than two quarters of work, leading the unbeaten Chargers to a 41-0 victory at Tommy Stewart Field.
Leshoure's touchdown runs of 1 and 10 yards in the first half pushed the Chargers into a comfortable lead, but it was his breakaway sprints of 32, 42 and 54 yards that showed Leshoure was in fine form and ready for another special season.
"It felt real good to get some long runs," Leshoure said. "The first two games, I didn't really get to break any. The yardage wasn't as good as it could have been. But for me to come out and play the way I did, I feel pretty good."
Centennial, ranked ninth in Class 6A, racked up 369 yards on the ground and used its highly regarded ground game as a nice decoy, too. Quarterback Tyler Stefan was 5 of 7 with two touchdowns, connecting with Kyle West from 20 yards and Alex Bruce from 19.
"Once (Leshoure) gets those long runs, it really opens up everything else for our offense," Stefan said. "All their safeties are reading Mikel and they just jump right away, and it's one-on-one coverage the whole time (for the receivers)."
Friday's romp also gave the Chargers' reserves a chance to shine, and in the case of Leshoure's backups, it was further proof that Centennial won't be lacking for backfield stars once Leshoure graduates in the spring.
Sophomore Rayvonte Rice and junior Dontae Burney combined for 82 yards on 11 carries.
Rice is a 6-foot-3, 212-pound package of power. He's a starting outside linebacker. And he's Leshoure's cousin.
"I've been teaching him since Day 1," Leshoure said. "He had a little problem with holding the ball in a big crowd. This is his first year of playing varsity. He's gotten a little faster from last year, and he's improving and people can see that.
"If I come out of the game, we've still got another back who can come in and do the same thing."
Burney offers the opposite style: 5-8, 145 pounds and lightning quick.
"Burney, people sleep on him," Leshoure said. "He's a little back, but he's got speed and he's tough. You see that it took four or five people to bring him down (tonight). I think their backfield will be pretty good (next year)."
To keep Leshoure from absorbing a pounding, the Chargers have given Rice and Burney a chance to show what they can do. So far, so good.
"That's part of the plan," Centennial coach Mike McDonnell said. "Burney is getting a little experience. Rayvonte played some sophomore (ball), but he didn't play varsity last year. We're trying to get them both in there. They spell Mikel pretty well. He takes a pretty good beating along the way, so we've been real happy with the way both of them have played."