Coaches at any level want to see their team playing their best football when postseason play starts, Brent Blakely’s Pekin Panthers are doing just that. The Panthers came into Friday night fresh off a 38-12 win over Louisa-Muscatine, and were looking to finish a obstacle-filled 2020 regular season with a .500 record.
The scoring started quickly in Keosaqua on Friday. Van Buren running back Wyatt Mertens returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to set the score at 8-0 following the two-point conversion from Sam Warth. Pekin’s offense would go three-and-out on its opening drive, but received a boost when the Panthers defense stuffed Van Buren on 4th and short. The Panthers offense responded to the stop by marching down the field with a no huddle attack that was capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Colton Comstock to Michael Jones to set the score at 8-8 following the two-point conversion.
From there on out, Pekin went on an offensive assault that resulted in 42 unanswered points over a two-and-a-half quarter span. Following a Warriors three-and-out, Pekin’s offense marched down the field again and punched in a one-yard touchdown run from backup running back KJ Rohr to set the score at 14-8. It wouldn’t be long before Pekin was in the endzone again as the Panther defense joined the scoring, as senior linebacker Brady Latcham intercepted an errant Lane Davis pass and returned 35-yards for a touchdown. Pekin would add another touchdown on a quarterback sneak from Colton Comstock to set the score at 28-8 at halftime.
To open the second half, Pekin continued their ground campaign as the first drive of the half resulted in a 40-yard touchdown run from Michael Jones. Following another Van Buren three-and-out, the Panthers struck for the final time on the night on a 47-yard touchdown run from senior wingback Cael Baker to put Pekin up 48-8. Van Buren quarterback Lane Davis punched in two short touchdowns in garbage time to set the final score at 42-21.
The IHSAA released its playoff pairing’s at noon on Saturday. Pekin will be hosting Cardinal in the first round next Friday at Tom Stone Field, the winner will play Sigourney-Keota. Pekin and Cardinal’s scheduled regular season matchup was canceled due to multiple cases of COVID-19 amongst the Pekin team.