CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- It only took the opening series for the Central football team to realize Forreston's physicality.
The Panthers never matched it.
Forreston churned out more than 400 yards on the ground on the way to handing Central its worst loss of the season in a 44-6 victory in Friday's Class 1A state championship game at Memorial Stadium.
The Cardinals captured their third state championship in five seasons after winning titles in 2014 and 2016. The second-place trophy is the best for any Central team in any sport in school history.
"(Forreston) came at us right off the bat," Central senior running back Chayse Houston said. "They came in knowing they were going to fight for this and did that off the bat and didn't stop."
That led the Cardinals to pouring on the points in the first half. Forreston (12-2) scored on its first four possessions and used a 24-point second quarter to build a 30-0 lead going into the locker room. The only possession the Cardinals didn't score on was the final series of the half.
It was the largest deficit for the Panthers (12-2) at any point this season.
"You could see the score on the scoreboard when we were walking out of the tunnel after halftime," Central senior running back Cole Williams said. "We just figured we had two options: either quit or keep pushing. I think all of us kept pushing."
Forreston pushed back.
Central went three plays before punting on the first drive of the third quarter, and Forreston followed with an 11-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Ethan Mulder's second rushing score of the game, pushing the lead to 36-0. The Panthers picked up two first downs on their next series, including a 28-yard run by Williams, but were turned away on fourth and 1 from the Cardinals' 10-yard line.
Forreston then drove 90 yards in 13 plays, and fullback Garett Badertscher's 1-yard touchdown run made it 44-0 and activated the turbo clock for the final 11:50.
"It's kind of like, 'Wow, we're getting it taken to us,'" Houston said. "But that's not a part of us. We're not going to just sit there and let it happen. We'll keep fighting no matter what."
Central's final possession was a nine-play, 82-yard drive that was capped by Noah Strohkirch's 1-yard run that cut the deficit to 44-6.
The Panthers had a chance to score early after their first series went 18 plays, but they turned the ball over on downs at the Cardinals' 21-yard line. Forreston answered with an eight-play drive, capped by Evan Kelsey's 37-yard scoring run to make it 14-0.
On the next two Central series, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs. Forreston's Hunter Rogers then picked off quarterback Eric Jones late in the second quarter for a 26-yard interception touchdown return, giving the Cardinals a commanding 30-0 advantage.
Central coach Brad Dixon said he felt that's when the game was slipping away.
"We didn't get (the first down), and you just try to get a stop at that point," Dixon said. "It didn't happen."
Forreston held Central to just 127 rushing yards and 3.7 yards per carry. Williams led with 60 yards on 12 carries, and Houston had 40 yards on 10 rushes. Jones completed 6 of 13 passes for 99 yards, but also threw two interceptions.
Kelsey finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries for the Cardinals.
"You're going to run into people that are better than you," Dixon said. "Forreston was better than us, probably 10 times out of 10. But I'm just proud of the way we battled."
Forreston 44, Central 6
25 First downs 11
59-404 Rushes-yards 34-127
0 Passing yards 99
404 Total yards 226
0-1-0 Comp-Att-Int 6-13-2
2-1 Fumbles-lost 1-0
4-28 Penalties-yards 2-20
Forreston 6 24 6 8--44
Central 0 0 0 6--6
F--Evan Kelsey 23 run (run failed), 7:51
F--Kelsey 37 run (Dom Christensen run), 8:50
F--Ethan Mulder 1 run (Kelsey run), 3:06
F--Hunter Rogers 26 interception return (run failed), 1:47
F--Mulder 8 run (run failed), 7:32
F--Garett Badertscher 1 run (Rogers run), 11:08
C--Noah Strohkirch 1 run (kick failed), 5:30
RUSHING--Forreston, Kelsey 17-148, Badertscher 16-96, Mulder 14-82, Christensen 4-41, Mitchell 2-13, Rogers 2-12, Cullor 1-7, Davids 1-6, Linger 0-2. Central, Cole Williams 12-60, Chayse Houston 10-40, Strohkirch 7-13, Sally 1-12, Ashton Cole 1-4, Jaycob Rowland 1-0, Eric Jones 2-(-2).
PASSING--Forreston, Cullor 0-1-0-0. Central, Jones 6-13-99-2.
RECEIVING--Central, Houston 2-52, Williams 2-27, Tristan Brocksieck 2-20.