Central-Centennial: 'This is a huge week'

CHAMPAIGN — A championship will be at stake on Friday at Tommy Stewart Field.

The 41st Battle of Champaign football game between Unit 4 rivals Centennial and Central will determine which school captures the 2013 Twin City championship.

Both schools have already beaten Urbana and bring the same overall season record — three wins, four losses — into the showdown. Only the winner will remain playoff eligible.

There’s a lot on the line, but Charger coach Mike McDonnell said the game would be just as meaningful otherwise.

“Even if that stuff is not there, it’s still a big game,” McDonnell said. “It’s Central-Centennial.”

Besides the season records, the teams mirror one another in another manner.

“We’ve come a long ways from last year being a bunch of sophomores (on varsity),” McDonnell said. “They’ve started believing they can win.”

The same is true for Central. In Nate Albaugh’s first year at the school, the Maroons have put last year’s 0-9 season in the rearview mirror and could become playoff eligible with two more wins.

“That has been a goal all season,” Albaugh said. “Even when we were 1-4, we talked about we’re not out of it until we’ve been beaten five times. This is a huge week.”

He’s not the only one who feels that way.

“It’s very clear the way the kids talk, it’s a very important week for them,” the coach said.

Albaugh knows he won’t need to prepare a motivational pregame speech.

“All the kids are so excited,” he said. “My concern is keeping our kids focused.”

Central is coming off a 39-14 win at Danville. Albaugh sees strong resemblances between last week’s opponent and the upcoming one.

“I see a lot of similarities, a couple of high-profile athletes, some physical play defensively and the capability for a lot of big plays, which shows they have dangerous athletes who can make something happen,” Albaugh said. “I can’t wait to get to Friday.”

In the past two decades, Centennial has accumulated the most Twin City football titles. The Chargers have won nine outright and shared three others. Central is next with five outright and three shared in the past 20 years. Urbana’s total is two outright and three shared.

Centennial leads the Unit 4 rivalry 20-19-1.

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