Running backs spur Maroons' opening-game victory
CHAMPAIGN — The Central Maroons were impressive in their season opener with a 26-14 victory against Marion on Friday night at Tommy Stewart Field.
“You prepare so long, and winning in the opener is so important,” Central coach Nate Albaugh said.
“But we’re far from satisfied.”
Marion struck first with a 4-yard rushing touchdown late in the first quarter.
Central responded in a big way.
With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, Brad Dee broke an 80-yard run to tie the game at 7.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Montrel Moore added an 87-yard touchdown run to put the Maroons up by a touchdown.
“Moore has been the story of our preseason, and it showed up in Game 1,” Albaugh said. “He’s electric. The kid’s a warrior.”
On the next drive, Moore had a 37-yard rush to place the Maroons at the goal line, but they could not score.
Central made up for the goal- line blunder after Marion quarterback Izak Baker threw an interception with 41.7 seconds to go in the half.
Maroons quarterback Walker Stillman connected with Jamal Stovall for a 6-yard touchdown right before the half to give his team a 20-7 edge. Stillman, a sophomore, was 3 of 4 for 67 yards in the game.
The Maroons didn’t attempt a pass in the second half. The three-back tandem of Dee, Moore and Jalen Rose shouldered the load for the remainder of the game.
“A year ago, we had one real good back, (and) we had to ride him,” Albaugh said. “This year, we got three pretty good backs. We hang our hat on running the ball, and we did it well.”
Marion cut the Maroons’ lead to 20-14 after a 9-yard touchdown pass from Baker to Hunter Lincoln.
Central responded once again.
“I told them coming into the game it was going to be a war,”Albaugh said. “I told them this game could get close in a hurry, so we have to keep our foot on the gas pedal, and the kids responded.”
Facing fourth and 1 with less than seven minutes left, Rose burst through the secondary for an 18-yard gain. A Marion penalty a few plays later moved Central to the Wildcats’ 13-yard line.
Moore finished off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.
Next up for Central is a road test against Dunlap.