CHAMPAIGN - After the first quarter, Normal Community High School's offense went into hibernation Friday night at Tommy Stewart Field.
The Ironmen's defense came to the rescue.
NCHS intercepted three passes and allowed Champaign Centennial 179 yards of total offense as the Ironmen hung on for a 10-6 victory in a Big 12 Conference game.
"We definitely knew what they were going to try and run," said junior linebacker Alec Gerdes, who paced the NCHS defense with 13 tackles and had an interception. "We practiced all week for it."
The Ironmen (3-1 overall and Big 12) limited Centennial tailback Shaquille Traylor, who came in averaging 100 yards rushing per game, to 75 hard-fought yards on 30 carries. Traylor's longest gain was 8 yards.
NCHS scored on its first two possessions -a 28-yard field goal by Spencer Smith and an electrifying 59-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tre Jones on a busted play - to lead 10-0 after the first quarter.
Centennial (1-3, 1-3) had its first drive of the game snuffed by a Taylor Lierman interception at the NCHS 8-yard line. The Chargers never threatened again, but their defense came up with a big play in the fourth quarter to make things more interesting than NCHS wanted.
Jones fumbled as he tried to pitch on an option run. Zach McCoy picked up the loose ball and ran 14 yards for a touchdown with 4:42 left. The Chargers missed the conversion kick.
Centennial twice got the ball back. NCHS stopped the Chargers on downs the first time before Jared Cross' interception with five seconds left clinched the victory.
"I was very proud of our defense. I thought they played hard," said NCHS coach Wes Temples. "But the bottom line is it's not defense, offense or special teams. We have to get better as a team. There have been games our defense hasn't played well and our offense has been outstanding. We're going to go back, watch films and we'll get better."
Jones' TD run will definitely be included on NCHS' highlight film at the end of the season. He broke several tackles to find the end zone with 2:24 left in the first quarter.
"The snap was a little high," he said. "I ran as hard as I could, and they got me some downfield blocks."
Jones, who led NCHS with 96 yards on 22 carries, wasn't pleased with the Ironmen's offensive execution. NCHS finished with 225 yards, all but 3 on the ground.
"We were out of sync. A lot of that was my fault," he said. "We drove the ball, but couldn't punch it in. It's real frustrating because we know we're better than this."
Centennial never got past midfield in the second half. Lierman and nose tackle Devon Brown each had 10 tackles for the Ironmen. Charger quarterback Jake Chestnut was 10 of 27 for 95 yards.
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