PEKIN — Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.
Pekin head coach Joe Donovan knows just how painful turnovers in prep football can be at this time of the year.
Friday night, Donovan’s sixth-ranked Panthers learned the lesson the hard way in a battle for the Class A, District 6 championship. Not once, but twice in the second half, turnovers deep in BGM territory thwarted what appeared to be promising potential scoring drives.
Instead, the end results were no points and no district title. The late miscues stalled the Panthers’ seven-game winning streak and allowed the second-ranked Bears to cap a perfect regular season with a 19-7 victory at Tom Stone Field.
“The one thing we just can’t afford to do is turn the ball over, especially at this time of the year,” Donovan said. “You can’t afford to do those things in games like this. That’s just the way it goes.”
Friday’s game was expected to be a test of wills with BGM sporting 1,000-yard rusher Jack Kline while Pekin brought its own vaunted ground attack into the contest. In the end, Pekin won that battle as Kline failed to top the century mark, stopping at 94 yards with a long run of 15 as BGM rushed for just 79 total yards against a stout Panther defense.
“We were pretty stout against a team that has been able to run on anybody whenever they’ve wanted to all season long,” Donovan said. “We talked about not allowing creases on defense and for the most part, we did a good job of keeping Kline contained. I’m proud of my kids and I’m proud of my coaches for putting together and executing a solid game plan.”
But on a cold, windy night, it was the arm of BGM quarterback Bryan Kriegel that ended up making a huge difference. The senior signal caller completed his first four passes on an opening drive that went 55 yards, hitting Colton Ryan and Mayson Sherwood for big plays that set up a one-yard sneak by Kriegel to put BGM up 7-0.