Week 3 prep football storylines: Urbana running to the present

Week 3 prep football storylines: Urbana running to the present

1. Vying for its first win against Danville since 2012, Urbana felt emotionally drained after last Friday's 21-20 loss.

And that was OK for second-year coach Ordell Walker to see.

"That's what I want," Walker said. "If there's no emotion, that means it doesn't matter, and we have a bigger problem to handle."

Urbana (0-2) will try for its first win this season when the Tigers play 7 p.m. Friday at Normal Community (2-0). It's Urbana's first road game this season, and it comes against the defending Big 12 champion.

"We know they're a tremendous program," Walker said. "But we can't play their history. What we can do is practice extremely hard, lock in and play with great effort."

All traits the Tigers showed against Danville, which saw Urbana ahead 20-6 in the second quarter.

"Our guys have a really strong desire to see the program move forward," Walker said. "They've worked extremely hard, and they've invested a lot. When you invest a lot, and it doesn't work out for you, there's a pain that comes along with it."

The improved play of senior quarterback Tad Meeker is notable for the Tigers. Meeker is 31 of 47 for 289 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions so far this season.

"Meeker has really grown a lot after playing most of last year," Walker said. "He's just a different player this year."

Add in the contributions from fellow seniors like wide receiver/defensive back Mike Mboyo, tight end/linebacker Jerome Rowell and running back/defensive back Chico Lipscomb, and Walker has a solid core to work with this season.

"We had a fantastic week of practice last week, and it showed up (last) Friday," Walker said. "We're really trying to preach to them that you have to win each day and prepare each day. They've done a good job responding to that."

2. Monticello has won 16 games by at least 40 points under coach Cully Welter, now in his 10th season at Monticello.

A 51-0 home win against Olympia in Week 1 and a 52-7 home win last Friday against Chillicothe IVC are the latest. When to pull his starters in the lopsided games is a balancing act.

"Early in the year, we tend to pull the plug on the regulars earlier in the game," Welter said. "Towards the end of the year, if you know you will be in the playoffs, you want to make sure your kids are conditioned to play a whole game, and there might also be something specific for which we need to direct our focus and get extra repetitions. It can be a fine line."

Welter likes what defensive coordinator Brit Miller, a former Illini has brought to the Sages (2-0) going into Friday night's Illini Prairie Conference game at St. Thomas More (1-1).

"Coach Miller has created a system where our kids can be aggressive and make plays," Welter said. "We want our kids to be free and relentless. There are places we need to improve, but it is a fun group."

3. Salt Fork isn't lighting up the scoreboards this season. Storm coach Brian Plotner doesn't mind."We don't have the big-play potential we've had the last few years," Plotner said. "We'd be in deep trouble if we have to outscore teams."

Salt Fork (2-0) has used a stingy, opportunistic defense to head into their Vermilion Valley Conference opener at Georgetown-Ridge Farm (1-1) undefeated for the first time since 2013. Two of Salt Fork's six touchdowns this year have happened via fumble recoveries, with Kotah Broeker and Payton Taylor taking those to the end zone.

"Georgetown has some big dudes who can move," Plotner said. "It'll be a little like David vs. Goliath when you see the size of both teams."

Salt Fork rallied from an 0-3 start last year to make the Class 1A playoffs. Beat the Buffaloes and the Storm are halfway toward playoff eligibility.

"We know we're far, far from where we need to be," Plotner said, "but it's a lot better feeling than where we've been sitting in the past."