Tigers start strong, but can't sustain effort in season-opening loss

Tigers start strong, but can't sustain effort in season-opening loss

URBANA — The first play of the season on Friday went perfectly for the Urbana football team.

A squib kick bounced off of a Rich East player, and Urbana recovered. A few plays later, the Tigers were inside the 10-yard line.

Then, like one of burly Rich East running back Armani Brown's lumbering jaunts between the tackles, everything went downhill for Urbana in a 36-6 loss.

"It's a disappointing night," Urbana coach Ordell Walker said. "We weren't ready for the physicalness that they brought. We were ready, but that physicalness, that intensity wasn't something that we saw in practice."

The Tigers wouldn't score on that first drive, and Rich East responded with an 85-yard touchdown drive.

The Tigers simply didn't have an answer for Brown and the Rockets' running game.

"From an offensive standpoint, we didn't block up front," Walker said. "The same goes on defense. They ran through some tackles, but so many times they went to their big running back and we just couldn't bring them down."

The Tigers did have a few highlight-reel plays, including a downfield grab by senior Steven Thompson and a touchdown catch by Jerome Rowell, but the positive plays were too few and far between.

When he took over a year ago, Walker spoke of changing the culture at Urbana, and he still thinks the Tigers are well on their way to doing that. Last year's 1-8 season, which began with a 43-8 loss to Normal Community, is behind them. But before next week's game against Danville, he also knows plenty has to be fixed.

"Considering our first game last year, we're way ahead of where we were," Walker said. "The big thing now is to not live in this one moment, but find what we did wrong and improve."