BLOOMFIELD – Carson Maeder may know as well as any Davis County Mustang football player just how talented the athletes of the Pekin Panthers are.
Many of them, after all, have been coached by his grandfather.
Dayne Eckley has been one of those star pupils of Davis Eidahl, running in multiple events at the state track and field championships for the Pekin boys track team including the run to the Class 2A state team championship in 2018. Of course, Eckley has been just effective running on the gridiron for the Panthers as was the case again on Friday as the Pekin senior gained 189 yards and two touchdowns in a much-needed 42-14 road win, keeping head coach Brent ‘Bud’ Blakely’s squad from carrying an 0-4 record into district play.
“When you’re 0-3, the big key is trying to keep your kids mentally on track in a positive way,” Blakely said. “Our seniors have done a great job maintaining a high level every day in practice. The kids have stuck with the game plan and are seeing things through. They’re starting the reap the rewards of that.”
Eckley moved over 500 yards rushing in four games, putting the senior on pace for a second straight season of gaining over 1,000 yards on the ground. Unlike the first three games of this season, however, Eckley had some help in the backfield as starting tight end Kennan Winn gained 136 rushing yards, scoring a pair of second-half touchdowns after hauling in a 29-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
“Our line has been amazing. All I have to do is run with the football and take it up the field,” Winn said. “Coach Blakely told me last week he wanted to try me out in the backfield. My response was that I’ll go wherever I’m needed.”
Winn’s second-half touchdown runs helped Pekin (1-3) hold off a surge by Maeder, who passed for over 200 yards for the second straight game. The Davis County sophomore signal caller completed 18 of 35 passes for a career-best 230 yards with touchdown passes to Caeden Glosser and Carson Zeitler in the second half, but appeared to injure his throwing hand on his final pass, an long incompletion with 10 seconds remaining
“In a situation like that, some coaches might take a knee, but other coaches look at it as a chance to get some more reps in because of how young the players are,” Davis County head football coach Kent Anderson said of Maeder. “Carson has really grown into that position. He’s maturing as our quarterback.
“I’m hoping he didn’t hurt it (his hand) bad. I fear that he did.”
Both Pekin and Davis County will head into district play having gone 1-3 in non-district action. The Mustangs have the toughest test of the two squads next week, traveling to defending 2A, District 6 champion Williamsburg next Friday night.
“It’s all about gaining experiences and perspectives,” Anderson said. “We’re going up there to play another great team with more great tradition. The one thing I look forward to is seeing 10 sophomores on the field for us tonight. Some day, those sophomores are going to be seniors. The sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s back every day, but right now we need to persevere through some tough times.”
Pekin, meanwhile, returns home to host the unbeaten Cardinal Comets in Class A, District 6. Max Bentancourt scored three touchdowns in a 49-12 Homecoming win over North Mahaska, giving Cardinal a 4-0 record for the second straight year heading into the district-opening showdown with the Panthers.
“We just have to take it day by day and week by week,” Eckley said. “We’re definitely back to playing Pekin football.”