Reserve steps it up for Maroons
CHAMPAIGN — If you're a Champaign Central fan and looking for a silver lining in Friday's 45-0 loss to Normal West at Tommy Stewart Field, look no further than Tion Posey.
The junior running back, pressed into duty after starter Tim Turner went down with a knee injury early in the second quarter, rushed for a game-high 143 yards on 29 carries, providing one of the few bright spots for the Maroons in their season opener.
"He stepped up big time. He was running the ball hard," Central coach Brett Roberts said. "He's a great player, and he's going to be one of our key guys the rest of the season."
Another bright spot for Central was receiver Spencer Devriese. The senior caught four passes for 42 yards.
Champaign Central moved the ball effectively at times against the Wildcats, ranked seventh in Class 7A, but three turnovers doomed any chances of getting into the end zone.
"We didn't protect the ball. We made a lot of costly turnovers. We hung with them for a little bit, but then we gave it away," Roberts said. "They capitalized, and that's what good, opportunistic teams do. We just made some mental mistakes."
On the other side of the ball, the Maroons had no answer for Normal West quarterback Alex Jefferson. The Big 12's top returning player ran for 142 yards, including touchdown runs of 61 and 69 yards, and he completed 14 of 30 passes for 206 yards and two more scores.
"He's awesome. He's got speed, he's got an arm, he's the real deal," Roberts said of Jefferson. "He's the total package, probably the best player in the Big 12.
"We got worn out; we've got some conditioning issues we need to take care of."
In addition to the injury to Turner's right leg, Central played the second half without starting fullback and linebacker Toby Rivera. Two-way lineman Sherriffe Blissitt, another of the Maroons' leaders, limped off the field, too. Jamal Stovall, who was projected to be the Maroons' starting quarterback, missed the game with an arm injury.
"What came out of it is we saw a lot of guys step up, and we'll count on them if our guys can't come back," Roberts said. "We've still got a great chance at accomplishing our goals."
The goal, Roberts said, is to bounce back from the Week 1 setback and get back into the postseason for the first time since 2008.
"We still talk about the playoffs. I told the kids this is a great team; we came out, got it out of our system early making a lot of mistakes," Roberts said. "We should get that corrected and come out with a great week of practice."