BLOOMINGTON — There was still time for Champaign Central High School’s football team to erase a 13-0 deficit when it faced third-and-goal at Bloomington’s 1 early in the fourth quarter on Friday.
The Purple Raiders withstood a blast from 200-pound running back Toby Rivera and a bobbled run by quarterback Joe Aeilts to regain the ball on downs and preserve what would become a 13-0 victory.
“Our line wanted to try something new,” said BHS linebacker Austin Weltha, who averaged 41.2 yards on four punts. “They said, ‘chop block.’ They all chopped. The center fumbled the ball. The quarterback held onto it for a second and we got through there and stopped him.”
BHS improved to 3-1 overall and in the Big 12 Conference while the Maroons slipped to 1-3 and 1-3.
“We’ve given up a lot of points this year,” said BHS coach Rigo Schmelzer. “To get a shutout, I’m pleased with what they achieved.”
Schmelzer also liked the fact his team could prevail despite having six starters sidelined by injuries, including rushing ace Kendrick Cooley.
Jake Romani helped pick up the slack by completing 11 of 21 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores came after turnovers as BHS got the best of a 3-1 difference in takeaways.
“He put the ball on the money a couple times and his receivers just don’t make the plays,” Schmelzer said. “If they pull them on in, we look a little better as far as the score.”
A David Lowe fumble recovery set up the Purple Raiders’ first possession, which became an eight-play, 48-yard scoring drive capped by a 23-yard pass to Nick Arnold on a crossing pattern over the middle. Josh Secord’s kick made it 7-0.
“He ran a good, hard route,” Romani said. “I thought I saw a blitz coming up and the O-line did a great job giving me time so I just had to give it to him. Nick did a great job getting into the end zone.”
Kyonn Keith’s interception set up the host’s final score, a 10-yard pass to Donovan Loftin with 1:05 left in the second quarter. The kick failed.
“I was debating almost running that time, but he was so open I had to give him that chance,” Romani said. “He made a good move on the corner and got open.”
Champaign looked dangerous on its final possession, reaching its own 49-yard line with help from a 15-yard personal foul penalty with under 2:00 left. However, Eric Dreyer’s interception snuffed the threat.
The Maroons’ ill-fated, 74-yard drive to the BHS 1 was helped along by a fake punt on which Jamal Stovall passed to Michael Manard for a 29-yard gain to the BHS 35.
“I like to feel we should have punched that one in,” said Champaign coach Nate Albaugh. “We made two mistakes on one drive. One was a fumbled snap and one was moving on the wrong count. If you want to beat a good team like Bloomington, you can’t make those mistakes.”
Champaign’s Joe Aeilts finished 7 of 18 for 69 yards while Rivera rushed 19 times for 56 yards. The Maroons lost the total yardage battle, 179-160, as BHS got 47 rushing yards from Seffon Falls and 41 from Christian Neal.