CHAMPAIGN — Shouts of “Our town!” filling the south end zone.
The singing of the Centennial High School fight song.
Chargers football players returning from the locker room for celebratory photos.
Kyle Jackson experienced little to none of this in his first season as Centennial’s coach, during an 0-9 run in 2019.
Things are looking much brighter for the Chargers in 2021.
Three different players scored a touchdown for Centennial during its 22-0 win against Champaign Central on Saturday at Tommy Stewart Field.
The victory gave the Chargers (2-1, 2-1 Big 12 Conference) possession of the Wright Street Trophy for this season. The Maroons (0-3, 0-2) are the only other contender, with Urbana forgoing its spring slate.
“They’re buying in, and they’re having fun,” Jackson said of his kids. “We hyped (the rivalry game) up a little bit, but not all that much.”
Neither team scored across the contest’s first five drives — three for Central and two for Centennial.
But a significant event transpired early in the afternoon when Maroons junior Miles Wood went down with an apparent leg injury after breaking off a 29-yard run in the first quarter. It wound up as Wood’s only carry of the game.
“He’s an important part of that offense,” Central coach Tim Turner said. “It kind of hamstrung us a little bit without having him out there.”
The Chargers bottled up the Maroons at nearly every turn, with Central junior David Willis (25 rushes for 89 yards) the only consistent offensive threat.
The Maroons turned over the ball on downs four times in Centennial territory, including twice at the Chargers’ 6-yard line.
Centennial junior David Navarra recorded a sack and a fumble recovery, as well.
“We’re playing a lot more physical than we did last year,” Jackson said. “We’re swarming to the ball better than we did last year. But we’re keeping it simple, so our guys can fly around and play hard and play fast.”
“We had opportunities and just didn’t execute,” Turner added. “When we get the ball and we drive and we’re at the 5 and we can’t punch it in, it’s going to be tough.”
The Chargers’ offense found its footing when it started letting sophomore Brandon Harvey carry the ball.
The 6-foot, 195-pound athlete rushed five times for 57 yards on Centennial’s third drive to set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from junior Brady Boatright to junior Jack Young Jr.
Harvey finished with 150 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, outweighing a lost fumble.
“We talked about trying to get him the ball,” Jackson said, “and he brought it (Saturday).”
Junior Montez Dubose added 67 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for the Chargers.
Kharthyl Phillips and Michael Eduarte each recovered a fumble for Central, which retired the No. 1 jersey of Drew Adams before the game. Adams, 18, died last May in a boating accident.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Turner said. “Drew was a kid that the entire city loved.”