Week 3 storylines: Central's possible winning streak

Week 3 storylines: Central's possible winning streak

It has been 35 games since a varsity football team from Champaign Central has won in consecutive weeks. First-year coach Nate Albaugh has the Maroons in position for a winning streak as his team enters Friday’s home game against Decatur Eisenhower coming off a win against crosstown rival Urbana. One highlight for Central in Week 2 was the play of its offensive line, which led the way for an effective ground game. “Our offensive line really controlled the line of scrimmage in a dominant fashion,” Albaugh said. “It was pretty awesome to watch.” The game plan, he said, was to feature what is a strength. “What we’re doing best is really getting off the ball,” Albaugh said, “and we have a big, physical fullback (Toby Rivera) who is really impressive.” Rivera scored the late-game touchdown and two-point conversion that enabled the Maroons to earn a 21-20 triumph. Last week’s win, Albaugh said, “made for an enjoyable weekend,” but he added, “the kids showed a lot of maturity and came back this week ready to get back to work.”

Homecoming week at Iroquois West will bring an undefeated Sangamon Valley Conference opponent (Paxton-Buckley-Loda) to Gilman on Friday. There will be plenty of outside highlights as well, starting with a recognition ceremony for the school’s 2003 state champions. An individual who will be recognized is Bob Eimen, who has devoted 50 years to serving as a volunteer on the sideline chain gang. “His dedication to assisting the program is greatly appreciated,” Raiders coach D.J. Harris said. Eimen plans to retire at season’s end from what he has called “the best seat in the house.” Harris regards Eimen as “one of those individuals that does the work that usually is unnoticed but essential to the game.” Iroquois West is going against a PBL team that has had a different 100-yard rusher in each of the first two games. Weston Weber ran for 113 yards in the opener, and Drew Schrodt is coming off a 195-yard effort at Effingham. PBL is facing its third consecutive road game. A win by the Raiders (1-1) would enable them to match last year’s season-ending total.

The number of unbeatens in the Vermilion Valley Conference will shrink Friday when 2-0 teams Bismarck-Henning and Milford/Cissna Park face one another in Milford. The visiting Blue Devils have won 15 consecutive regular season games and 22 of their last 23 pre-playoff games. They’re doing it this year with an offensive line that often features tight ends on each side of the field. “Usually small schools don’t have two 6-foot-4, 240-pounders who can run and catch,” B-H coach Mark Dodd said. The Blue Devil tight ends, Braedon Lappin-Pratt and Chase Swinford, aren’t merely decoys. They have four of B-H’s seven receptions to date. The remainder of the line, Dodd said, is “quick and athletic, different than we’ve been in the past.“ Wilde Garowski, Austin Reffett, Will Collins, Jared Noel and Sage Clark form the front wall. All figure in to the team’s rotation on defense, with Noel starting both ways. They’ve opened holes for a group of backs who are averaging 9.5 yards per carry as a team. Patrick Ganley and Dustyn Ingram each are averaging more than a first down per attempt.

All signs point to a showdown Friday at Cerro Gordo, where the Broncos host Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond. The game is between the only teams that have started 2-0 in the Little Okaw Valley Conference. It’s between the teams that rank 1-2 in the league for points scored and 1-2 in fewest points allowed. It’s between squads that are state-ranked in their respective classes. The Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement program is No. 9 in Class 2A. A-L/A-H is No. 9 in Class 1A. The biggest point, according to A-L/A-H coach Dale Schuring, is the chance to move into the driver’s seat in the LOVC race. “If you lose one, you have to get help from other people (to ultimately earn a title share),” Schuring said. Many opposing players were teammates for two years with the former South Piatt co-op. This is Year 2 for Bement athletes playing at CG and for A-H athletes at A-L. “It has been great for us, a lifesaver,” Schuring said. “Without them, we might be back where we were (a few years ago);
we might not have a team or have five or six freshmen out there.”

Centennial doesn’t have recent history on its side as it travels to Danville on Friday for the Vikings’ home opener. The Vikings have won six consecutive games in the series, though Centennial led 28-3 last year at halftime. Chargers quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald has emerged as a dual threat as a junior. He has not only passed for at least 100 yards in each of his  first two games but he also is leading the team in rushing. Between running and passing, he has accounted for 413 yards for coach Mike McDonnell’s 1-1 team. Stephen Lee has 17 of the Chargers’ 30 receptions through two weeks. Though the Chargers lost last week, McDonnell said the team made strides. “We improved some things and had a better idea how to play together,” he said. Individually, he’s seen good balance. “We have guys that flash and look pretty good,” McDonnell said, “but it’s not like, ‘This is the guy.’ What we need is to get 11 guys playing well all the time.”