A season with more ups and downs than the Dragon rollercoaster at Adventureland came to a solemn end for the Pekin Panthers on Friday night. The Panthers, who were matched up with Cardinal in the first round, did not have to opportunity to play the Comets in the regular season as their initial matchup was cancelled due to COVID cases amongst the Pekin program.
The scoring started early in the first quarter as Cardinal junior quarterback Maddux Jones hit senior receiver Christian Bowman for a four-yard touchdown to set the score at 6-0 after the failed 2-point conversion. The Panthers would answer back on the following series, which was capped of by a 13-yard touchdown run by senior wingback Cael Baker to set the score at 7-6. Landon Miller’s Comets would strike on the final play of the first quarter as Griffin Greiner took a Maddux Jones pass 62 yards to the endzone to give Cardinal a 12-7 lead.
Pekin, who was able to drain clock for a good chunk of the night, methodically marched the ball down the field on the Comets defense again and scored on a 3-yard bootleg from junior quarterback Colton Comstock to take a 13-12 lead heading into halftime. The second half opened similar to the first half, as Cardinal scored on an 8-yard touchdown run by Griffin Greiner that gave Cardinal the upper-hand yet again with the score at 18-13. The Panthers would strike again on Cael Baker’s second touchdown of the night to give Pekin a 21-18 lead with three minutes to go in the third quarter.
The lead would not last long as the Comets marched down the field again and scored on Griffin Greiner’s second touchdown rush of the night to give Cardinal a 24-21 lead. Pekin appeared to primed to score another touchdown on the ensuing drive, until the winds of fate blew in the direction of Cardinal, as Maddux Jones picked up a botched Pekin hand off and ran it back 90-plus yards for a Cardinal touchdown to set the score at 32-21. The Panthers continued to prove their resilience as they quickly marched down the field and scored off a two-yard touchdown run from Michael Jones to close the gap at 32-29.
Cardinal fumbled deep in Panther territory on the next drive, giving Pekin a chance to march down and take the lead. The Comets defense had other ideas as they drove Pekin back to a 4th and 25, which ended up as a failed conversion. Cardinal’s penultimate drive resulted in a 20-yard touchdown run by Maddux Jones, that essentially all but sealed the Panthers fate. Colton Comstock was intercepted on the ensuing drive to slam the door shut on a 38-29 loss and Pekin’s season. The Panthers finished the year 3-4, with three of their losses coming to teams with a combined record of 18-4.