Pekin keeps bragging rights behind Eckley’s huge game

Dayne Eckley pushed Pekin to victory in the Backyard Brawl of the Cobras behind 304 rushing yards and three scores. Eckley broke out for an 84-yard scamper in the first half and followed that up with a 69-yard dash early in the third quarter for his second score. The Panthers went on to win 31-12.

The annual backyard brawl was renewed for another exciting chapter as Sigourney-Keota hosted Pekin with similar results to a year prior. The first half saw both sides take a lead, but Pekin would go on to win out the second half and get the 31-12 win, largely in part from a big game by Dayne Eckley.

Weeks of preparation and work from the offseason was about to be put to the test as Pekin kicked the ball off to start the game. SK opened the drive with a play action type play as JD Stout rolled out of the pocket and kept the ball until the defense was nearly in his face. He then flipped a pass to Brady Duwa, who easily picked up the first down and moved the Cobras past midfield. Another first down was picked up the hard way with the ground game, but the drive came to a halt just outside the red zone with a turnover on downs.

Pekin had some similar success with their first drive, sticking to their game plan of running the ball up the middle. They made it a little further than the Cobras did and elected to kick for a field goal, which they converted on to take an early lead. From there, offense was hard to come by in the opening quarter as the Cobras had a short drive and punt, followed by a turnover on downs for the Panthers after picking up some big yards with an open pass off the arm of Caleb Comstock.

“The Backyard Brawl is a game based on momentum, so any stop is a big stop,” Pekin coach Bud Blakely said. “I was proud of our kids sticking with the game plan amid our struggles.”

The Cobras kept their offense balanced and started their next drive with a pass along the sideline to pick up a first down. Just when it seemed SK was about to put some things together and get themselves into scoring position, they fumbled the ball and Pekin recovered. A lackluster quarter led to a more exciting second quarter, as both teams found the end zone.

As Pekin was driving down the field with another convincing drive, they too coughed it up. Dawson Baumert picked up the loose ball and was off to the races with no defender between him and the end zone. He was able to rumble off for 75 yards and put the Cobras in a prime spot to score with the drive starting at the six-yard line. Stout kept it himself as the offensive line opened a hole to clear the way for a touchdown. It was just what the home fans needed after seeing Pekin retain possession for most of the time up to that point.

“We played alright in the first half but had too many turnovers. It seemed we were always playing behind the chains and some of our snaps were sloppy,” SK coach Jared Jensen said. “You’re in the game and that’s what you want. Whether you’re up or down at the half you can always do better.”

The lead wouldn’t last long as Pekin handed off the ball to their senior tailback and Eckley was able to get around the edge, make it past the secondary and sprint the rest of the way for an 84-yard score. The offenses hit another lull with a couple punts to end the half, Pekin leading 10-6.

“In our offensive set the tailback should be able to have a big game and Dayne is fully capable of doing what he did,” Blakely said.

The second half began the way the first had ended, drives ending in punts and defenses standing tall. Pekin had a promising drive early on, but a fumble ended those hopes of taking full momentum in the game. SK was unable to do anything with somewhat favorable field position and had to punt the ball back. Eckley broke off another long run, this time 69 yards, to find the end zone for the second time and increase the Panther lead 17-6.

“We were in scramble mode in the second half with guys going down due to the heat and humidity. We had backups cramping up and it turned to pure chaos at times,” Jensen said.

Sloppy play continued for the Cobras as they fumbled the ball again, this time in their own red zone. Pekin took advantage and put up seven more quick points, with Eckley scoring for a third time on the night. Just when things started to look like they might get out of hand, the Cobras climbed back in it with a much-needed score. The defense held strong and pushed the Panther offense backwards, putting more pressure on the Pekin punter by having to punt in his own end zone.

“Our defense turned the corner at half time, we had been getting deep in the field, but we were missing tackles early,” Blakely said. “We busted a couple big plays out in the second half and made some adjustments and that helped. We’ve been focusing on conditioning more now than ever with a small roster and that paid off in the heat and against physical play.”

The Cobras brought the heat and it paid off with a successful blocked punt and Zech Boender fell on it to be credited with the touchdown. It pulled SK a little closer, but they would need more to go their way as they still trailed 12-24.

“When we settled down we started playing well and then we got that big stop with the blocked punt and got a touchdown. Offensively we just couldn’t get it going and that’s where we struggled most,” Jensen said. “We did alright defensively and gave up some good plays to some good players.”

Pekin put the definitive nail in the Cobras coffin with a drive committed to the run, trying to take off as much time as possible. That drive ended in the final score of the game as Comstock kept the ball himself and found an opening on the edge for a 10-yard score. The late touchdown made the score 31-12 with little time left and even little hope for the home team. SK wound up turning the ball over on downs after coming up just short on a long fourth-down attempt.

Cobra leaders: JD Stout – 35 yards passing, JD Stout – 109 yards rushing on 18 carries (6.1 yards/rush) and one score, Brady Duwa – 55 yards receiving on two catches (27.5 yards/reception), Zech Boender – 9.5 tackles, eight solo, two tackles for loss, one interception, one fumble recovery for a TD

Panther leaders:  Caleb Comstock – 81 yards passing, Dayne Eckley – 304 yards rushing for three scores, Zach Hammes – five yards receiving on one catch, Hunter Conger – two solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, Zach Hammes – six assisted tackles, two solo tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery, Caleb Comstock – one interception, one fumble recovery   

Up next for SK is a road game at Lynnville-Sully on August 31, while Pekin will host Mid-Prairie.