Chargers pick Lindgren at quarterback

Chargers pick Lindgren at quarterback

CHAMPAIGN — Will Lindgren nearly started at quarterback last season when Centennial met Champaign Central.

Lindgren opened the 2016 season as the backup to Chris Comet, although Centennial coach Lekevie Johnson almost replaced Comet in favor of Lindgren before the two Big 12 teams met last year.

Comet started, threw for 232 yards and led the Chargers to a 27-14 win against the Maroons.

This year's meeting between the two Unit 4 rivals will play out at 7 p.m. Friday, and Johnson has already played two quarterbacks this season. Jared Thomas was under center last Friday night during the second half of Centennial's 48-7 loss to Normal West, the fifth-ranked team in Class 6A, after Lindgren started the game.

But Lindgren is slated to start again at quarterback this Friday night as Centennial (1-2) tries knock off Central (0-3) and avoid a two-game losing streak near the midway point of the season.

"Jared came in and did well for us against a very good Normal West team," Johnson said. "That competition was always close, but we're going to try to make sure that I'm giving Will the confidence he needs. He's going to get the nod Friday night. He understands what is at stake."

Turnovers have hampered Centennial so far this season. Lindgren has completed 39 of 70 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns, but the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior has also thrown six interceptions.

Cutting down on those mistakes is crucial if Centennial wants to give itself a chance to make the playoffs.

Games against state-ranked teams like Danville (Sept. 29) and Normal Community (Oct. 6) are still on the schedule, meaning a win on Friday against the Maroons is vital if Centennial wants to reach the five-win mark needed for playoff eligibility.

"It's a game we need to win," Johnson said. "It's a game, too, where you don't have to get your guys up for it. Central is a decent football team, and they haven't had a fair schedule, either. Their record is not an indication of how good a football team I think they have."

With Central still searching for its first win, it adds to the urgency both programs face, giving this Week 4 game more of a playoff feel than one would expect with the season only one-third complete.

"I'd prefer to have this game early on in the schedule so you can just kind of get it behind you," Johnson said. "As much as we want to downplay it as coaches and players, the game is huge for the community because the community comes out for this one. There's rivalries in every little pocket of Champaign this week. You can say, 'Hey, it's just another football game,' but it's not."