EAST PEORIA — The Canton football team barely shared the ball Friday night, instead sharing star moments on offense in a 44-14 Mid-Illini Conference victory over East Peoria.
Four players scored the first four Canton touchdowns as the Little Giants (3-3, 1-3) snapped a three-game losing streak.
The Little Giants had some new offensive wrinkles and a new quarterback, and it resulted in a new streak. Sophomore Jake Smith got the start at quarterback for senior veteran Clint Wells.
“He’s been dinged up the last few weeks,” Canton coach Cody Myers said of Wells. “We’ve been trying to manage him through that and thought it would be best to give him a rest.”
Smith responded with two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs.
“He did excellent,” Myers said. “He was very well-prepared. He’s been watching (Wells) when he’s been working with the coaches, and he practiced with the starters.”
“He did a good job,” Canton tight end Nathan Lucas said. “I think he got more confident as the game went along and got better and did a good job for us.”
While Canton showed a balanced offense, its defense hardly allowed anything. The Little Giants didn’t allow a first down until a pass interference penalty 6 minutes, 3 seconds into the second half. East Peoria (2-4, 1-3) had the ball for only 4:05 in the first half.
Ethan Magnuson had a touchdown run and catch for Canton. Lucas had 183 total yards.
The Canton defense allowed 78 points the last two games, but two touchdowns and a penalty were the only three first downs it allowed.
“I think that’s the best they looked all year,” Myers said. “We relied on them all through last year, so we know what they can do. When they’re doing three-and-out and three-and-out, they’re showing what they can do.”
It was only a 3-0 game when Magnuson capped a 50-yard drive on a TD run with 1.2 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Little Giants couldn’t be stopped after that. A roughing the punter penalty prolonged the next drive, which ended when Smith threw a 31-yard TD pass to Lucas.
“We’ve been down and needed this one,” Myers said. “It was important to get some big plays early, get an early lead and keep our defense off the field.”
Smith and Lucas later hooked up for 28 yards to set up a Smith 18-yard TD run up the middle.
Lucas had a touchdown run and scoring catch called back by penalties.
A counter then reverse to him ended the end zone but was denied because of a hold. He had a 24-yard run earlier on the same play.
“It’s a tight end reverse,” Lucas said. “I love it. We’ve been practicing it and starting to use it more.”
Later, the counter part of the play got blown up, but Drake Yerbic improvised a throw to Lucas, who broke two tackles to get into the end zone. But there was a penalty on that play, also.
Twice on long catches, Lucas fought the ball away from an East Peoria defender.
“That felt great,” he said. “I saw the ball up in the air and just thought I’m going to get it and ripped it away.”
Canton is still very much in the playoff picture even after a three-game losing streak.
“It feels good because it was a very important win to get back to where we need to be,” Lucas said. “I think we can take this moving forward and go in the right direction.”
David Allen can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpudPJS.