FALL SPORTS PREVIEW: Pekin takes aim at district title, postseason runNorthup takes over as starting quarterback
Tradition means more at a school like Pekin, where current athletes must not only fulfill their own potential, but also respect those who came before them.
The football program only has 17 upperclassman this year on its roster, but don’t think for one second it spells a down year for the team. After making the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the Panthers are the favorite in their district and will likely be one of the top 10 best teams in Iowa’s Class A. Receiving the label as a favorite is something Pekin has become used to over the years.
Like any team which banks on tradition, Pekin has restocked its roster for 2014. Many of last year’s starters graduated, including three of Pekin’s top-five tacklers and its starting quarterback.
“Our strength is experience with six starters on both sides of the ball and athleticism at the skill positions,” fifth-year coach Joe Donovan said.
One huge positive for the Panthers is a group of sizeable and experienced linebackers to lead the defense. Senior Cole Reighard, who finished second on the team last season with 97 total tackles, will be the core of the group. He’ll be joined by seniors Tanner Adam and Colton Lanman. Adam, standing at just 5-feet-9-inches, sports a bulky 185-pound frame and made 80 tackles in 2013. Lanman will transition into a permanent starting role after grabbing 40 tackles last year.
Even with the amount of talent the Panthers saw graduate, each level of the defense should have game knowledge and will be a team strength. Keaton Winn will play defensive back, and finished tied with the team lead in interceptions with four. He’ll be joined by senior Christian Wittrock, who made second-team all-district in 2013 and finished with 41 total tackles. As for the defensive line, 265-pound J.D. Hollingsworth will be the anchor up front. The Pekin defense allowed just 13 points per game over 12 matchups last season.
Senior quarterback Kolby Allsup was a menace for opposing defenses in 2013, finishing with more than 500 yards in both the rushing and passing categories and scoring 17 total touchdowns. His departure means sophomore Trever Northup takes the wheel, and he’s very much cut from the same cloth.
“He’s a good athlete who will definitely be a dual-threat for us,” Donovan said.
Pekin has plenty of options up front when it comes to offensive line. Celebrated Pekin athletes Jared Bond and Eric Adam graduated, but the team has replenished their roles with more seniors. Hollingsworth, Matthew Jones and 200-pounders Kyle Miller, Logan Lamb and Matt Bollinger will all be in the mix for starting lineman spots. Sophomore Joe Hagedon, who stands 6-feet-2-inches and tips the scales at 230 pounds, will also stake a claim for a starting spot.
Winn and Wittrock will be receiving options for Northup, but Pekin’s strength is always the running game. Junior Chase Copeland returns to try and one-up last year’s 1,142-yard performance. Copeland’s speed will key the offense as he tries once again to be a playmaker. He ran in 17 touchdowns last year.
The Panthers are now in Class A District 9, and will not have to play B-G-M (Brooklyn) or Montezuma this season. A tough out of district schedule (Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and Sigourney-Keota) will precede district games against playoff caliber foes (Lone Tree and WACO) and close proximately rivals (Cardinal and Van Buren).
Pekin begins the year Friday at Tom Stone Field by hosting EBF.
2014 Pekin Football Varsity Schedule
8/29 vs. Eddyville-Blakesburg
9/05 @ Sigourney-Keota
9/12 vs. Danville
9/19 vs. New London
9/26 @ Van Buren
10/03 vs. Cardinal
1010 @ Lone Tree
10/17 @ WACO
10/24 vs. Winfield-Mount Union
Head Coach: Joe Donovan, 5th season
Key Returnees: QB Trevor Northup (So.), RB Chase Copeland (Jr.), WR/DB Christian Wittrock (SR), LB Cole Reighard (Sr.)
Class A District 6 2013 Records
Team Conference Record, Overall Record
Pekin* 6-1 9-3
Lone Tree* 5-2 6-4
WACO* 5-2 5-5
Van Buren* 4-3 5-5
Winfield-Mt. Union 2-5 3-6
Danville 1-6 2-7
New London 1-6 2-7
Cardinal 0-6 1-8
* – 2013 Playoff Qualifier
** – Last season Pekin was in Class A District 6 with BGM (Brooklyn), Montezuma, Pleasantville, Lynnville-Sully, Southeast Warren, English Valleys and North Mahaska. BGM, Montezuma and Lynnville-Sully qualified and joined the Panthers in the postseason.