URBANA — For anyone who questioned whether the Urbana High School football team was ready for prime time, the scoreboard provided the indisputable answer:
Tigers 41, Normal West 28.
“It’s a heavyweight fight,” coach Nathan Watson said after his Tigers knocked off the previously undefeated and Class 6A sixth-ranked Wildcats Friday night in a matchup with Big 12 title implications. “We punched hard. They punched us back.
“We were down, and I’m so proud of the way (the Tigers) fought back and finished the game. They finished strong.”
Although Urbana (5-1, 4-1 Big 12) never trailed, the momentum definitely had swung after Normal West (5-1, 5-1 Big 12) scored two third-quarter touchdowns to tie the score at 21. At that point, even Watson had to concede he was uncertain how his team would respond.
“I wasn’t sure,” he said. “We haven’t been in too many games like this,”
Watson didn’t have to wait long to find out. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Urbana wide receiver Andrew Bivens sprinted downfield and gathered in a pass from Cameron Mammen for an 81-yard touchdown. It was their second TD connection of the game
“He had a little slow start to the beginning of the season, and I told him every week, you’re going to have your big game, you’re going to have your big game,” Mammen said. “He had his big game (tonight).”
Urbana wasn’t through producing lightning bolts. On Normal West’s second possession of the fourth period, Mammen intercepted a pass and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown. On the Wildcats’ very next play from scrimmage, Greg Hiltbrand — who ended up throwing four touchdown passes — again went to the air. This time, Urbana’s Tanner Russell grabbed a deflection and returned the interception 59 yards to the end zone.
Just like that, the Tigers led 41-21.
“People said that our defense is the weakness of our team, and I disagree,” Watson said. “It was good for them to step up and make plays when the game was on the line. ... We’re a complete team and we showed that tonight.”
Mammen finished 11-of-18 passing for 232 yards and had a hand in five Urbana TDs. “That might have been Cam’s best game,” Watson said.