This past Friday Tommy Stewart Field hosted a clash of the top two teams in the Big 12 Conference. In a weird game when the home team was actually away and the away team was home the visiting Centennial came out on top 40-14. “I’m happy for our community that both teams are 3-0. It’s good for football in Champaign. It should be a great atmosphere”, said Nate Albaugh the coach for Central in a pre-game interview. As I interviewed both coaches it was pretty clear that Albaugh and Coach Mike McDonnell looked at this game in two totally different perspectives.
“As a coach I feel pretty confident about this game I know the skill level of my team. 3-0 honestly doesn’t mean much to me.” Coach Mac made it clear to me when I talked to him that this game will come down to the player’s focus the week leading to the game more than the game itself. McDonnell feels that he shouldn’t have to play a big role in getting the players focused for this game. He feels as if his role should just be studying the new style of offense that Centennial will face. “It’s Central that speaks for itself”
When both coaches were asked what players should you look out for on the opposing team I got two very different answers and that’s expected when you have one coach who has been around for over 18 years and one that just started 2 years ago. McDonnell responded with “The halfback is pretty good and as well as the Linebacker but central as a team is better than the last few years “. While Albaugh responded with “They have a few good players on offense and defense”. The answers may differ but its noticeable that neither coach has time to memorize names of opposing players they are just worried about stopping the opposing teams dominate players.
“We don’t prepare any differently for this game outside of preparing to see a different offense and a different defense from the week before” and “I prepare for this game like every other game just focus and execute” said in interviews with Albaugh and Senior CB Jamal Stovall. It’s clear that the coaching staff is getting to the players that focusing and playing to the best of their ability is the key to doing good in this game.
One thing both coaches and players agreed on was the role that the crowd played on Friday. As I talked to players and coaches they all made it clear that this will be the most hype game of the year for both teams. Why? It’s the Central vs Centennial Game.