MATTOON – The battle of Champaign just got a little more interesting.
After falling to Mattoon 10-7 Friday night, the Centennial Chargers must win at home against crosstown rival Central to qualify for a bid for the playoffs.
Centennial coach Mike McDonnell says the game needs no hype and that all statistics and records mean nothing when the two teams meet head-to-head at Tommy Stewart Field next Friday.
With Central losing as well, both teams are in need of one win to qualify.
"This is a totally different ball game," McDonnell said. "It's like when I was (a graduate assistant) at Ohio State and we played Michigan. You had 10 games and then war. This is our version of that. You got eight games and then you have the game.
"It's one game, one night and two hours of just bring it on and get after it."
After starting the season with three straight victories, the Chargers seemed like a lock to make the playoffs for the seventh straight year. But Centennial hit a tough road in the middle of its schedule, losing four of its last five games.
The Chargers offense struggled to get anything going against a suffocating Green Wave defense. Senior running back Mikel Leshoure rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Lehsoure had to work for every yard.
"Mattoon, they've always been a good defensive team," Leshoure said. "Every year they've been keying on me, so I was expecting to have tough yards today and that's exactly what they did."
Centennial (4-4) made a valiant effort to come back in the fourth quarter following Leshoure's touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Stefan completed 7 of 8 passes in the second half, but with less than three minutes to play, Mattoon forced a fumble to essentially ice the game..
"It was a tough football game," McDonnell said. "It's always a tough football game wherever you play them whatever year it is. They're always tough, they're always physical. I thought we did some good things but gave them a few big plays, and that's basically it. We gave them one long pass in the first half and one fumble, and that was it."
Mattoon (7-1) jumped to an early lead on the first play of the second quarter on an 83-yard touchdown reception by Green Wave wide receiver Jered Dosien from quarterback Jeremy Jordan.
Leshoure does not think the loss will keep the Chargers down.
"Just like any other loss, we just have to bounce back and play hard," Leshoure said. "I think we got a good team and that we're going to go into this game with our heads up and hopefully we get a good week of practice."