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NORMAL — Rushing/receiving dynamo Armani Forrest was on the sideline in blue jeans, resting a sore ankle.

So when Normal West High School football coach Nathan Fincham decided to deemphasize the passing game on a slippery field Friday, that left senior tailback Davion McQuirter.

“I didn’t think it would rain as much as it did,” Fincham said. “Once I saw what the field was like I was like ‘all right Davion, you’re a beast. Let’s feed you.’”

The 180-pound McQuirter had his fill, helping West construct an eight-point halftime lead and toting the football 16 times in the second half as the Wildcats claimed a 35-20 Big 12 Conference victory over Champaign Central.

Ranked No. 8 in Class 6A, West improved to 7-1 overall and 6-1 in the Big 12.

“We’ve always been kind of an explosive team, needing big plays to get us going,” said Fincham. “I’ve talked all year this team is a little different. We’ve got the line and running backs to grind some teams out. That’s what we did the whole second half.”

McQuirter finished with 148 yards on 26 carries with 120 yards coming in the second half.

“That’s only because of the linemen. They’re incredible,” McQuirter said. “Just go north and south, try to minimize your cuts. It’s a team game. I just do whatever the coach needs, whatever the team needs.”

Champaign (5-3, 5-2) threatened to whittle down the West lead with a methodical 17-play drive than ran over nine minutes off the third-quarter clock.

But the Maroons came up empty when quarterback Lucas McMahon fumbled just outside the end zone and Wildcat end Tyler Eft recovered for a touchback.

“We’re lucky we got him (Eft) back. He’s been out since midway through the Normal Community game (Aug. 31),” Fincham said of Eft, who also pounced on a first-half fumble. “Having him back adds a different element to our line. He made a big difference.”

McQuirter’s 11-yard touchdown jaunt with 1:42 left in the game sealed the victory. The win was sweeter knowing Forrest, who has over 900 yards of rushing and receiving, was able to sit out.

“He’s been hurting all year with an ankle injury he had before the season started,” said Fincham. “We talked to him about getting through the first gauntlet of the season and then get him healthy and try to get him back for the playoffs.”

A quick first quarter ended at 7-7 as McQuirter ran 3 yards for a score and McMahon matched that with a 2-yard sneak into the end zone.

The scoring pace soon increased dramatically. Eft's first fumble recovery set up a 1-yard McQuirter scoring plunge.

Champaign again responded, this time on the next snap as wingback Correyante Boyd found a gap over the left side and sprinted 80 yards to paydirt and a 14-14 tie.

Boyd finished with 116 yards on the ground out of the Maroons Wing T attack.

West made it scores on three straight plays from scrimmage.

After a Maroons onside kick try trickled out of bounds, quarterback Carson Camp connected with Cole Hernandez for a 36-yard scoring strike. That was one of just six Wildcat pass attempts.

The Champaign response, after two West penalties handed the Maroons 30 free yards, was a 13-yard Tarell Evans run for a touchdown. But this time, the extra point was blocked and the Wildcats clung to a 21-20 edge.

When a second Champaign onside kick went awry, Camp dropped back to pass, found no open receivers and took it himself 41 yards up the middle for a touchdown and a 28-20 halftime lead.

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Contact Randy Reinhardt at (309) 820-3403. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt

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Reporter

Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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