NORMAL — Gavin Tellor might want to ask Normal West High School football coach Nathan Fincham if he can play a little wide receiver.
The junior cornerback made a diving interception at the 9-yard line with 44 seconds left Friday night that sealed Normal West's 17-14 victory over Bloomington in a Big 12 Conference football game at West.
Afterward, the Wildcats lifted up Tellor on their shoulders and chanted, “Gavin! Gavin! Gavin!”
“They kept running the wheel and comeback,” said Tellor. “I read it perfectly and jumped it.”
Tellor's play ended a thrilling fourth quarter. The Wildcats (3-1 overall and Big 12), who are ranked No. 10 in the Class 6A state poll, put together a 89-yard, 13-play drive that ended with Davion McQuirter's 8-yard run for a 17-14 lead with 4:23 left.
The West drive was kept alive by an 8-yard run by quarterback Carson Camp on fourth-and-seven from the 11. After an illegal motion penalty, McQuirter busted through the left side and waltzed into the end zone.
“Carson is a play-maker,” said Fincham. “A lot of people think he just has a good arm, but he made most of those plays with his legs. He's a good athlete who is starting to get to the point where he makes plays at crunch time. That's what we want out of our quarterback.”
The Purple Raiders (3-1, 2-1), who had rallied from a 10-0 deficit, appeared ready to put together one more drive. Griffin Moore completed a 20-yard pass to Mauliek Johnson on fourth-and-8 to move to the Wildcats' 29.
Two more completions by Moore got BHS to the Wildcats' 17 before Tellor made the game-saving play for West.
Fincham couldn't have been happier for Tellor.
“He had a pretty serious knee injury in the offseason,” said Fincham. “We didn't know what we were going to get out of him. He's been a huge surprise for us because you don't know how you're going to recover from a knee injury.
“He's done a great job working his way into the rotation to begin with and becoming a starter and now someone we rely on.”
BHS coach Scott Godfrey complimented Tellor by saying “that was a great play by him,” but lamented his offense for not getting the victory.
“I said before if you hold Normal West to 17 points you're supposed to win,” said Godfrey. “That's on me. I'm calling the offensive plays and we have to do more to score points. Hats off to our guys. We shut them down after the first drive or two ... we settled in.”
West outgained the Raiders in total yardage, 302-270. McQuirter gained 108 yards rushing on 18 carries, while Camp was 11 of 22 for 121 yards and rushed for 43 yards on 10 carries.
Moore completed 15 of 22 attempts for 182 yards. He also led the Raiders with 41 yard rushing on 15 carries.
West dominated the first quarter. The Wildcats got the opening kickoff and drove 67 yards in nine plays. Camp hit Magnus Moeller with a 17-yard TD pass and Parker Theobald's conversion kick gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
After stopping BHS on three plays, West drove from its own 13 to the Raiders' 4. But BHS' defense stiffened and Theobald's 25-yard field goal put the Wildcats ahead, 10-0, late in the first quarter.
BHS, which ran only four plays in the opening quarter, finally got its offense untracked. The Raiders put together a 12-play, 84-yard drive, highlighted by a 37-yard catch and run from Drew Crooks.
Moore scored on his third try from the 1 and Jack Weltha's kick trimmed West's lead to 10-7 with 3:14 left until halftime.
BHS drove 80 yards in nine plays with the second-half kickoff. Holden Snyder took it into the end zone from the 2 to give the Raiders a 14-10 lead with 6:31 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats found their offensive rhythm again. West moved to the BHS 1, but on fourth-and-goal the Raiders stopped Armani Forrest on a sweep out of the Wildcat formation.
“We did not want any big plays from Normal West. We kept the ball in front of us,” said Godfrey. “We did not let 8 (Forrest) run wild. That was a big thing we were trying to do.”
BHS had to punt from the Wildcats' 47 with 7:23 left, setting up West's game-winning march.
“Give Bloomington all the credit. They adjusted and were double and tripling Armani,” said Fincham. “They made other people make plays. The problem is when we get negative plays we're not a very good football team. At the end we finally figured it out and started moving forward and our defense finished it off with a great run there.”