Memory Lane: Battle of Champaign
EACH WEEK, WE’LL TAKE A LOOK BACK AT A MEMORABLE MOMENT IN PREPS HISTORY, THANKS TO THE WORDS OF THE NEWS-GAZETTE
This week: Champaign Central and Centennial meet next week in the Battle of Champaign. The games usually live up to the hype, even when the teams have subpar seasons.
Date: Oct. 15, 2005
Headline: Sign of relief
Chargers can exhale after win
CHAMPAIGN – Their 2005 football season flashing in front of their eyes, Centennial’s Chargers found a way to resuscitate it before flatlining.
Centennial – not long ago 5-0 and ranked ninth in the state Class 6A poll – flirted with extending its losing streak to three Friday night. But Tyler Stefan’s 37-yard field goal with 5:02 left broke a tie, and the Chargers held on for a 23-20 victory against Champaign Central in a typically entertaining Battle of Champaign at Tommy Stewart Field.
It was Centennial’s fifth straight victory against its rival. But, perhaps more important, it put the team’s season back on track after back-to-back losses against Bloomington and Mattoon.
"You can’t help but get concerned," said Centennial receiver Michael Ammons (five catches, 44 yards). "But you just have to go out there and perform like you can."
They required every bit of those 48 minutes to get it done. All of the scoring came in the second half, and Central (5-3) twice went ahead by a touchdown, the last time on Mike Martinie’s 74-yard touchdown strike to Drew Sharick in the final minute of the third quarter.
But that 14-7 lead vanished on the Chargers’ next possession as Ammons caught a 5-yard scoring pass from Ryan Ward. Stefan’s field goal provided a 17-14 lead, the Chargers added a touchdown with 1:21 left and then held on when Central made it close on Mitch Holmer’s 46-yard TD catch with 25 seconds remaining.
"Our resolve just kicked in," said Centennial safety Tony Petruzzello, who had two interceptions, giving him eight for the year. "We knew we weren’t going to lose this game."
They never have. Centennial’s seniors stayed unbeaten against their crosstown classmates.
"It’s the most amazing thing; it’s undescribable," Centennial senior Charlie Ramshaw said. "To go out like this ... I almost started crying with my brother on the field, it just meant so much to me."
His older brother, Jay, an Illinois lineman, lockers next to former Central star J Leman at the UI. With the Illini idle this week, both players got to watch from the stands, Leman taking in his younger brother Cory’s exploits (20 carries, 128 yards).
Cory Leman’s effort, like those of several Maroons, was wasted. Holmer (five catches, 109 yards) was everywhere on both sides of the ball. Martinie withstood constant pressure to throw for 222 yards and two touchdowns.
But the Maroons ultimately were undone by three interceptions and untimely defensive mistakes. Their first drive ended with a turnover from the Centennial 3. In a game filled with turnovers (six) and marred by penalties (17), Central’s miscues wound up the most costly.
"We had some missed opportunities, definitely, in the first half," Central coach Dave Jacobs said. "I’m disappointed we lost, but I’m not disappointed in the effort. We played hard. If we can bottle that energy against everybody we play ..."
It was, in that respect, like every other Central-Centennial game in recent years. Mistakes were plentiful, but the intensity was unlike anything seen in the other eight weeks of the regular season. The momentum swung back and forth every few minutes.
"I just talked to Mike Martinie," Charlie Ramshaw said, "and he said it’s one of the hardest games he’s ever played."
"This is one of those games where you’re going to get one break, and if you take advantage of it you win," Centennial coach Mike McDonnell said. "It’s a game different than all the rest. It really is. I’d like to sit on the sideline and watch one sometime."
Fans wouldn’t mind watching them every week.
"Not with me in them," McDonnell said.