URBANA — They had hoped for a party, a hearty celebration after a victory against Decatur MacArthur that would make them payoff-eligible for the first time since 2004 and cap a season of momentum.
What Urbana's Tigers got instead was a bludgeoning administered by the determined Generals in conjunction with Murphy's Law.
Brian Jennings ran for 263 yards and two touchdowns as MacArthur posted a stunningly easy 34-14 victory Friday to deny the Tigers a chance at the postseason. MacArthur, at 5-4, will await its postseason fate tonight. Urbana, 4-5, fell short of its seasonlong goal and left a bitter taste for the next nine months.
"It should be motivation," Urbana coach Nathan Watson said. "Our slogan for this year was 'Two More Plays.' Now I guess it's 'One More Game.' "
Urbana's biggest problem was failing to slow a MacArthur running game that racked up 435 yards. Jennings had touchdowns of 39 and 80 yards, and he drew support from quarterback Devan Ingram, who rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
The Generals didn't bother to throw — they attempted one pass, which was incomplete — because they didn't need to.
What hurt Urbana's ability to keep pace was an injury to standout quarterback Cameron Mammen. He came up gimpy on his right ankle after being tackled on Urbana's first series. He returned for the Tigers' next series but was hobbling noticeably, and the injury effectively neutered the team's rushing attack. When your quarterback isn't a threat to run, there's not much "option" in the Tigers' option attack.
Plus, the tender ankle limited his ability to push off when throwing.
"Everyone knew he was hurt," Watson said. "He had a really gutsy performance. Obviously it hurt our offense. And when the offense is not moving the ball, we had some woes on defense and they're exposed even more because they're getting tired."
Watson said the game plan was especially centered around Mammen this week, with "a third" of the running plays geared toward him.
"He's our leader," Watson said. "There's no secret about it. That's football. The kids tried hard. It was just MacArthur's night."
The Tigers fell behind early — MacArthur scored on the fourth play of the game — and, as Watson acknowledged, appeared to be tight. No Tiger had ever been in the position of seeking a playoff bid, and it showed.
Mistakes were plentiful. Most hurtful was a late-first half miscue in which the Tigers attempted to field a bouncing punt, and MacArthur turned it into a touchdown with 18 seconds left in the half for a 20-6 lead. The Tigers never threatened again.
Despite the injury, Mammen (11 of 26, two interceptions) passed for 262 yards and broke his own single-season school record. He needs 80 yards in his senior season to break Preston Williams III's school record for total offense, and he's 261 yards away from surpassing Bryan Banks as the Twin City's all-time passing leader.