CHAMPAIGN – Twelve minutes into Monday's Champaign Central-Urbana soccer match, the Maroons led 2-0 and appeared to be cruising.
But this was Central-Urbana. Nothing comes easy.
Urbana had its own flurry late in the first half, scoring twice. After a scoreless second half, it went in the books as a 2-2 tie, but it felt much more like a win for one team.
And more like a defeat to the other.
"If we had come out (early) with the intensity we had (later in) the game, I think we would have definitely won this game," Urbana senior David Silvis said. "But you can't change that now. We gave up a goal in the first 30 seconds, and we can't let that happen. But we didn't get down on ourselves and we fought. I'm really proud."
They weren't quite as thrilled in the Central camp. The Maroons (5-2-1, 2-2-1 Big 12) got a Peter Kurthy goal 31 seconds in, added another on Ricardo Vega's unassisted tally in the 12th minute and then failed to match the Tigers' intensity.
"To me," said Central junior Scot Chapman, "it felt like we kind of lost this game."
The Tigers (5-3-1, 2-1-1) were coming off a rugged three-match tournament over the weekend. With one day of rest, they took on a natural rival in what was a typically spirited, physical Central-Urbana game.
"We just got done playing Morton, Naperville North and Normal West," Urbana coach Randy Blackman said. "And then we turn around and have to play these guys with one day of rest. That's tough.
"We started sluggish and they came out gangbusters. We finally got our legs and at moments played a little better. I thought we played real well the second half."
It perhaps didn't hurt that the Tigers felt they were on the wrong end of a few questionable officiating decisions in the first half. If that provided a spark, it probably came at the right time.
"I don't know if it helps us, but it gets us going," Silvis said. "We want to fight for everything. We just know we have to play that much harder."
Tim Parks pounced on his own rebound off a penalty kick to start the Tigers' comeback 5:20 before halftime. With 2:26 left, Ben King scored from Mike Delucia to tie it.
"We got up and we got a little confident, and we just relaxed," Central coach Josh Alford said. "That was the bottom line.
"They have to understand these games are just not going to be a walk in the park. We have to come out gunning every single play. That's a maturity level which these guys now understand and it will be a completely different game."