It’s been over a decade since Morton (2006) started 4-0, and over two decades since Dunlap (1993) started 4-0. The two bring unbeaten marks into their Week 5 clash Friday night.
Both programs got off to slow starts in 2016 but rebounded nicely toward the end of the season.
The Eagles were 2-3 before winning three straight to make the playoffs with a 5-4 record. They beat Metamora, Limestone and Canton just to get into the playoffs, where they lost 21-9 to eventual Class 5A champion Peoria High. That stretch of games was a confidence builder with a lot of those players coming back.
“(It’s) through the roof,” Dunlap senior linebacker Charlie Mangieri said. “Our offense has a lot of confidence and our defense has a lot of confidence, we have to just keep making plays.”
Morton started last season 0-3. The Potters then won three of the next four, including a 21-9 win over Dunlap, before finishing the season 3-6. The last two games were tight against, arguably, the conference's two best teams in Canton (10-3 and Class 4A semifinalist) and Washington (9-3 and Class 5A quarterfinalist).
“We’re taking all the momentum from last year and confidence we have and cleaning up the plays that we should have won last year,” Morton senior running back Bradley Getz said.
This week’s game will focus more on the running game. Dunlap’s stingy defense has allowed 12 points per game through four games. Defending Morton’s rushing attack will be a challenge.
“(Nolan Donald and Bradley Getz) are real good runners,” Dunlap coach Brett Cazalet said. “When you watch film, and the scary part as a coach is when you see guys run through holes and you think, ‘OK you can scheme for that,’ but they break a lot of tackles.”
Donald has rushed for 806 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Getz has rushed for 600 yards and six touchdowns. But Dunlap’s Luke Bennyhoff is also a playmaker, rushing for 644 yards and eight touchdowns.
On Dunlap’s homecoming night, it’ll be another strong test between two teams in a talented Mid-Illini Conference. Morton coach Tim Brilley is looking forward to Friday night.
“It’ll be a great atmosphere and another good test,” he said. “In conference, especially, we’ve had two good games and we’ve played well and scored a lot of points. We’re really looking for our defense to improve and take it up another notch.”
Hess express climbing rushing records
Geno Hess is second in all-time rushing yards in the Journal Star area and 20th overall with 4,804, according to IHSA records. He took the state by storm last year, rushing for 2,821 yards. With 658 yards this season and 1,325 at Peoria Heights, Hess has put together a nice career.
Hess leads all metro rushers and sits behind only ROWVA’s Justin Powers (1996-99), who rushed for 6,575 yards for the area’s all-time rushing record.
Manual will play Champaign Centennial at 6 p.m. Thursday at Peoria Stadium, according to Manual coach Ed Cagle. The game was originally scheduled to be part of a doubleheader at Peoria Stadium on Friday; however, the district decided to move the game.
Peoria High will still host Bloomington on Friday night at Peoria Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Stuffing stat sheets
Halfway through the season, several players are doing some extraordinary things on the football field. Here are several players that are making an impression.
Pekin quarterback Quinn Theleritis has completed 67 of 110 passes for 855 yards and seven touchdowns. Four of his receivers — Brad Johnson, Chris Hill, Braden Lavin and Sebastian Hill — have 13 or more catches for 108 or more yards. Johnson and Hill each have three touchdown catches.
Richwoods’ offense has scored 225 points in four games, which is more than the 181 they scored in nine games last season. Quarterback Keenan Streitmatter is a big reason why, completing 61.8 percent of passes with a 15-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. A.J. Johnson and Sharod Danage have caught a combined 39 passes for 589 yards and 14 touchdowns. Running back T’Nahleg Hall has run for 716 yards and nine touchdowns on 89 attempts.
Peoria High quarterback Coran Taylor has been as balanced of a dual-threat as one can get. He’s only completed 46.3 percent of passes but has 671 passing yards for eight touchdowns. He’s averaging 17.7 yards per completion. Sophomore receiver Kaevion Mack has caught 17 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
Canton tight end Nathan Lucas is averaging an eye-popping 35.4 yards per catch. He’s caught seven passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
While Bennyhoff is the rage at Dunlap, two receivers — Josiah Miamen and Isaac Guyton — are making plays in the passing game. Miamen has caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. Guyton has seven catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. They're averaging 17.3 yards per catch, each.
Washington’s backfield is balanced between running backs Sam Walter and Josh Schellenberg. Walter, who has taken the bulk of the carries the last two weeks, has 48 touches for 383 yards and five touchdowns. Schellenberg, who missed most of the Canton game with an injury, has 40 carries for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
AARON FERGUSON is a Journal Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 686-3207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.