“Without my offensive line, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything. It was fun out there, even if it was a little wet,” Copeland said after producing one touchdown with a 17-yard dash late in the first quarter. “I knew I had to hold onto the ball with two hands. It was definitely slick and we knew coming in we were going to run the ball all the way. We just couldn’t pass in those conditions.”
Just five nights after losing out on being the first Panther team to win a district title since 2003, the week of practice leading up to the playoffs centered on keeping possession of the football. In the district title game loss to BGM last Friday, two late turnovers deep in Bears’ territory snuffed out potential scoring drives that could have made the difference in an eventual 19-7 loss.
“It was important to hold on to that football. The less turnovers we have, the better chance we’re always going to have to win the game,” Copeland said. “We put the ball on the ground in the Montezuma game (19 days ago). We could have scored much more than we did in that game.”
Controlling the football would prove to be difficult for both Lone Tree and Pekin on the rainy night. The ball hit the ground 10 times combined between the two teams, but for the Panthers just once did one of those fumbles turn into a lost possession.
And by then, it was too late for the visiting Lions to do much to turn the game around. Pekin had already stormed out of the gates in the opening quarter, following up a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive to kick off the contest by scoring on a Lone Tree fumble in the end zone to open a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the postseason clash.