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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 11, 2016

Pekin ends regular season 5-3 with victory over New London

By ANDY HALLMAN Ledger news editor | Oct 19, 2016
Photo by: JILL DAHLSTROM Chandler Eckley carries the ball for Pekin in its game against New London Friday night.

NEW LONDON – The Panthers didn’t drop back to pass often, but when they did, they were deadly. That was the story of Friday’s game at New London, a contest the Panthers won 23-14.

Pekin relied on junior Monico Requena to pick up most of their yards on the ground. Requena touched the ball 29 times on his way to gaining 106 yards. The Tigers began to key on Requena, and that’s when Pekin threw in an occasional pass play.

Sophomore quarterback Caleb Comstock threw just four passes, but three of those were caught for a total of 96 yards. Levi Long’s two receptions on the night both went for long touchdowns, one for 53 yards and the other for 40 yards. Trever Northup caught a pass for 3 yards.

Tyler Copeland scored Pekin’s other touchdown, which came on the ground. Copeland amassed an impressive 6.3 yards per carry on 11 touches. Keaton Baayen carried the ball six times for 16 yards. Northup and Torell Washington each had eight rushing yards. Comstock had four. Northup also scored a 2-point conversion.

Kaden Baker and Garrett Greiner led the team in tackling with eight apiece. Chase Eckley finished with 4.5. Eckley and Baker each had tackles for a loss. Baker’s was a quarterback sack.

Ethan Cooksey collected four tackles. Northup, Connor Reed and Washington all registered 3.5 tackles, and Chandler Eckley brought down three. Also making tackles were Baayen, Hunter Conger, Zack Conger, Copeland, Zach Hammes (including a quarterback sack) and Requena.

Topi Souminen made one of his two point-after attempts. He also kicked off four times and accumulated 73 yards. Cooksey punted four times and averaged 29.5 yards per punt, his longest coming in at 41 yards.

Pekin Coach Brent Blakely said Friday’s win was the “true definition” of a team win. He said his team played well in all facets of the game, which it needed to do in order to beat a good team like New London.

“I was so pleased with our toughness and ability to play hard all four quarters,” he said. “New London has the ability to score a lot of points and do it in a hurry. Our defense was able to slow them down and contain them most of the night. Offensively, we did a nice job not turning the ball over and having positive plays.”

The victory was bittersweet because the Panthers were looking forward to playing one more game in front of their fans Friday against Danville. However, Danville had to forfeit its season after suffering so many injuries during its first three games that it could no longer put 11 players on the field. That means Pekin’s game against New London could be its last game of the season.

“The biggest disappointment is the fact we don’t get to play this Friday,” Blakely said. “We wanted our kids to go out on a high note against New London and they did just that. Our seniors did a great job in practice all week providing us with leadership and that showed up Friday night. If this was our last game of the season, it will give us a lot to build on for next year and one our seniors can always remember. That’s all you can ask for as a coach on your final game of their careers.”

Pekin is still alive for a playoff berth, but unfortunately, it is no longer in control of its destiny. Blakely said that, if a number of things go the Panthers’ way in other contests Friday night, Pekin could play in the postseason.

The Panthers began the year 1-2 but finished it by winning four of their final five games.

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