Illinois-bound Fitzgerald has unfinished business

Published 08/13 2014 05:11PM

Updated 08/13 2014 06:37PM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Jimmy Fitzgerald's future is set.

The Centennial senior is headed to Illinois to play football next year.  But before he goes, the three-star quarterback has some unfinished business with the Chargers - a winning season and a trip to the playoffs are his only focus for now.

"Having six wins in the last two seasons is fuel to the fire," Fitzgerald said.  "It just makes me want to work that much harder to get to the playoffs."

Centennial was close last season.  At 4-and-5 they were just one win away from qualifying for the postseason.  The Chargers have only been to the playoffs once in the last seven seasons.  But with 19 seniors - the most in recent memory for longtime head coach Mike McDonnell - things are looking up.

"Two years ago we had 11 seniors and only nine of them played," said McDonnell, who is entering his 18th year at the helm.  "So we had to play sophomores, and that's why a lot of these guys have played.  So if we can keep them healthy, we've got a shot."

Fitzgerald enters his senior season as the school's all-time leading passer.  He threw for more than 2,000 yards last year and returns several key receivers, including seniors Dominic Stampley and Northern Illinois commit Steven Lee.  All three, along with running back Austin Maltbia, attended a 7-on-7 tournament in Chicago this summer where they won eight games against some of the midwest's best players.  They are confident that time together will pay off this fall.

"Being out there with all the Division one players out there, it showed us how to play with the best of the best," said Stampley.

Lee agreed.

"It gave me more experience that I can compete with the best of the best and that I am one of the best of the best and to bring that back to my team," Lee said.

Centennial has a favorable schedule early.  Three of their first four games are against teams that had a losing record last season.

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