OTTUMWA — There wasn’t much noise being made by the players in Sigourney-Keota football uniforms at the end of last year’s season-opening Backyard Brawl.
Cobra players made even less noise on Friday in the hours leading up to the rematch with Pekin. From the bus ride over the Schafer Stadium in Ottumwa to the locker room prior to kickoff, all Jared Jensen could hear from his team was silence.
“I almost didn’t think anyone was in the locker room when I walked in. That’s how quiet it was,” Jensen said. “The boys were focused. They were ready to go. You could see even this morning when the kids were walking around school.”
The Cobras did their talking on the field, snapping Pekin’s two-year winning streak in the series by taking Backyard Brawl XII in dominant fashion. S-K rolled to a 34-14 win over the Panthers, earning a special win in what many hope will be a special season for the program with three state championships and years of winning tradition.
“There’s something special about this year. This just proves it playing as well as we did,” S-K senior J.D. Stout said. “We already had some experience playing here on this field. We weren’t really in awe of it. You don’t get to play on a field like this every day, but we knew we had to come out and take care of business.”
In fact, S-K has played two of its past three football games at Schafer Stadium. Last season, the Cobras suffered a 24-14 district loss to Wapello after having to move the last scheduled home game of the year due to field conditions made unplayable by rain.
Defensively, the Cobras set a new tone for Friday’s rematch with Pekin stopping the Panthers for no yards gained on three running plays including a game-opening stop of senior running back Dayne Eckley. Last year, Eckley rushed for an eye-popping 302 yards including an 86-yard touchdown run.
This year, even on the first day of practice, the Cobras had Eckley on their minds. Stout made mention of Eckley’s long scoring run last year in the Backyard Brawl when a player missed a tackle during a defensive drill.
“Dayne’s a heck of a running back. I give him a lot of credit,” Stout said. “They’re a heck of a team and he’s a heck of an athlete, but we had his number tonight.”
Eckley managed to break through in the fourth quarter for a touchdown run, scoring from 29 yards out to cap a 135-yard night on the ground. Stout, who like Eckley rushed for over 1,000 yards last year, led all backs with 169 rushing yards including a three-yard plunge on fourth down in the fourth quarter to put the Cobras up 34-7.
“Coach Jensen told us coming into the game that we had to set the edge. We knew from last year that (Pekin) blitzed everyone up the middle,” Stout said. “We made some good checks out, but we ultimately went back to our bread and butter. We went back to doing what we do best.”
The game was hardly a masterpiece for both teams on both sides of the ball, however. The Cobras and Panthers combined for nine turnovers in the season opener. Unfortunately for Brent Blakely’s squad, six of those turnovers were committed by Pekin players including four straight pass attempts that were intercepted.
“Right out of the gate, we catch a break with a muffed punt and drive it inside the 10-yard-line. We couldn’t punch that in and we have to punch those opportunities into the end zone moving forward,” Blakely said. “We just gave (S-K) way too many extra chances. They were motivated. They’re a good football team.
“We have to get back up. We got kicked on our rear a little bit tonight. I do think our kids fought back and played some better football late, but we just got in too big of a hole.”
Sigourney-Keota (1-0) will look to build on Friday’s rivalry win with a return to Cobra Field, where S-K hosts Lynnville-Sully in the first game to be played in Sigourney since a win over Van Buren last September. Pekin, meanwhile, will head to Mid-Prairie before finally returning home themselves to host Mediapolis on Sept. 13 after having to move Friday’s game to Ottumwa following wind damage that required repairs to be made at Tom Stone Field.
“It was a neat atmosphere. Ottumwa’s got a great place to play the game that we love,” Blakely said. “We really appreciate the fact that they let us have a facility of this caliber to get this game in. Not many places can we go to find a place right down the road to get through the situation that we were in.”