RANTOUL – The Rantoul Eagles football team dropped its final game of the year, losing to the Indians of Pontiac 22-6 Friday night.
The Eagles went 0-9 on the season, their third winless season since 2012.
Twelfth-graders from the Football team, Cheer leaders and Marching band were recognized prior to the game on senior night.
The game started off slow with the only score in the first quarter coming off of a safety when the Indians tackled Rantoul senior quarterback Luke Zech in the end zone with 2:47 to go in the first quarter to make it 2-0.
Pontiac added to its lead with 2-yard touchdown run from Justin Greiff. Cobi Parra tried to run it in for the two-point conversion, but the Eagles stopped him short to keep the score at 8-0.
RTHS could not get the offense going in the first half — giving the Indians a chance to pull away.
Rantoul head coach Tom Hess said that he thought his team lost focus for a while in the first half.
“I thought the defense stopped them early, and on offense we just couldn’t get it going. And with the injuries and no wins it’s easy to lose focus and energy,” Hess said.
Pontiac struck again with 2:18 left in the first half Greiff scored on a 4-yard run, and the visitors held a 14-0 halftime lead after the two point conversion was no good.
The Eagles offense could not help their defense to start the second half.
After the Eagles made a defensive stand deep in their own territory Keddrick Terhune bobbled a snap, which led to another safety, giving Pontiac a 16-0 lead with 7:04 to go in the third quarter.
The Eagles had struggled with snaps throughout the season, which lead to multiple turnovers.
“We just continued to have bad snaps or fumbled snaps, and it depleted are chances all year,” Hess said.
Greiff put the game away with his third touchdown of the game — this time coming through the air from 6 yards out. Wyatt Griffith got in the end zone on the ground on the two-point conversion, giving the Indians a 22-0 lead.
Hess said the defense just ran out of gas in the second half.
“We made good plays on defense, but we just got worn down,” he said.
Terhune got the Eagles on the board with a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:26 to go in the game. Jesus Aguayo missed the extra point.
The Eagles could not recover the onside kick.
Despite the 0-9 record Hess said he saw improvements with his team.
“I like to say we have been working on the culture of our athletes, and we are definitely seeing some improvements,” Hess said. “The will to play defense, hit and tackle has definitely improved.”
Going into the off season Hess knows his program needs improvements, and he knows the players can make them.
“They can see what it takes, and it’s a choice to do the right thing each day” Hess said.
The Eagles seniors endured a lot of losses over their time at Rantoul, but Hess said he appreciates what they did for the program.
“With losing Deandre Walker for the season due to injuries suffered in a car accident and all the on field injuries, they still kept fighting, and they definitely made a difference on the field,” Hess said. “They were willing to accept their roles definitely set the bar for the rest of the guys.”
Hess also knows the changes can start at the top.
“We have a group of coaches that are determined to help them be successful on and off the field, and we have already discussed what changes we need to make to get wins on the field,” Hess said.
The Eagles have not made the playoffs since 2005 and will look to get back in 2020.
You can contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@Rantoulpress.com or on Twitter @RyanBirchRP.