Tigers struggle against Pekin in season opener
NEW LONDON — The New London football team got a slow start to Friday’s home and season opener against a tough Pekin team. The Tigers made improvements later in the game but came up short, falling to the visiting Panthers by a score of 55-13.
“I’m disappointed in the way we came out; I think we came out flat and let the heat get in our heads,” New London Coach Brad Helmerson said. “We gave up a couple big plays and started to hang our heads, but eventually we (snapped out) of that.”
Pekin got on the board early, getting in the end zone twice in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead.
They had taken a 41-7 lead by halftime, and added two more scores in the second half.
“They’re a good football team, and we aren’t quite ready to play at that level,” Helmerson said.
The Tigers scored their first touchdown in the second quarter when Quincy Porter found room to run along the sideline and broke away for a 90-yard kick return. Tyler Mettler’s PAT attempt was good.
According to Helmerson, the Tigers had opportunities to do more damage on their kick returns, but have to improve their blocking.
“We missed a key block occasionally; otherwise, we might have had a couple better returns,” Helmerson.
New London’s other score came at the end of the third quarter, when Tyler Shinkle capped a long drive with a five-yard carry into the end zone.
Shinkle finished with a team-high 84 rushing yards on the night, averaging 10.5 yards per carry.
Tristan Kadel ran for 32 yards, while Jayden Flowers picked up 20 yards and Austin McBeth had 16.
“In the second half, we cleared up some confusion and had a couple nice drives,” Helmerson said. “But we still have quite a bit of growing to do.”
They also have a couple adjustments to make under a new head coach.
The New London offense looks a little different this year — the Tigers are trying a new formation, which lines up a running back on either side of the quarterback, and any of them could take the snap.
“(The formation is) homemade,” Helmerson said. “We didn’t always do a good job of carrying out our fakes (on Friday) — it’s something we’ve got to tweak.”
As for the New London defense, Matayo Christianer led the team in Friday’s game with 12 tackles, while Tyler Stevenson had eight and Kyle Oliver had seven.
New London starts the season 0-1. Up next for the Tigers is a trip to North English for their first road game of the season.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. against English Valleys.