METAMORA – It has been 25 years since Champaign Central's football team won a playoff game.
The Maroons hope Year No. 26 does the trick.
"We definitely made progress as a program," Central junior Jordan Johnson said after the Maroons' 45-7 Class 5A first-round playoff defeat against Metamora. "We're building for the future. There's a lot of (good) things ahead."
Saturday was a disaster against 5A's top-ranked team. Central (5-5), which hadn't allowed a point in the first quarter all season, trailed 28-0 after one period.
Unbeaten Metamora ripped off a 62-yard run on its first play, had a 42-0 lead at halftime and finished with a 402-66 advantage in total yardage.
The Maroons, however, hope that Saturday serves as a bit of an eye-opener. Metamora has a gaudy football pedigree, with a 1975 state championship and six runner-up finishes. The atmosphere surrounding the game showed that the school and community take their football seriously.
That's the same type of approach Central coach Dave Jacobs hopes to instill at Central.
"I was disappointed in how we came out," Jacobs said. "It's a tough way for the seniors to go, but I'm really proud of how they helped elevate the expectations of the program.
"But I also told our younger guys: take a good, hard look at Metamora. We've got work to do. If we're going to go to the next level ... the team that we played today is a state championship-level team."
After winning two games in 2006, the Maroons earned key victories this season against Bloomington and Centennial, picked up a Twin City title and returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
It was a step forward, and the Maroons believe they have the nucleus to take another step next season. The junior class includes standouts like Johnson, while the sophomore class has several key contributors, including running back Denzel Stewart, linebacker Brandon Ward and quarterback Doug Kyrouac.
"We made a lot of progress," Kyrouac said. "We need to keep working, keep learning the system and play as one unit instead of 11 different players."
They ran into a better team Saturday. Running back Brock Gray rushed for four touchdowns in the first half. Purdue-bound quarterback Caleb TerBush completed 7 of 9 passes, including two scores to Iowa-bound Brad Herman, a connection of two 6-foot-5 players.
"They're a good team," Kyrouac said. "They ran it right down our throats."
Central hurt itself with three first-half turnovers, all of which led to Metamora touchdowns.
"It was men among boys out there," Jacobs said. "We're so much better than what we showed today. But they're a great team. I don't know who's going to beat them."
Central scored on Stewart's 66-yard fourth-quarter run against Metamora reserves.
"We've got to get our players to believe that there's more than just being Twin City champions," Jacobs said. "We've got to think bigger, and we've got to believe bigger, and we've got to work bigger. If you're not willing to work hard, if you're not willing to compete and fight, you're not going to win.
"They got something today thatI can't give them, and that's ex-perience. You've got to experience it."