Five teams are tied for first place in the Mid-Illini Conference football standings. Two of them will meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pekin’s Memorial Stadium.
Morton (2-3, 2-1) and Pekin (3-2, 2-1) will collide with a share of the lead in the eight-team conference and state playoff hopes on the line. This is Week 6 of the regular season and it takes at least five wins to be playoff eligible.
It’s homecoming week for Pekin, but Dragons coach Doug Nutter doesn’t think his players are being distracted by the constant hoopla.
“Our kids know what’s at stake in this game and they’ve been focused because we have good leadership,” he said.
Morton has won two straight after starting the season by losing to Columbia, Centralia and Metamora, teams with a combined 13-2 record.
“We can’t change the past,” said first-year Potters coach Tim Brilley, not making any excuses about his team’s tough early schedule.
“We have our destiny in our hands,” he said. “We have to give our best effort Friday and find a way to win. We’re confident we can do that. Our two wins have validated the processes we’ve used to get to this point.”
Nutter has been impressed by the Potters, who appear to be on the rise after ending a 12-game losing streak with a 33-0 win at Limestone in Week 4 and beating Dunlap 21-9 last week at home, their first victory at Carper Field since 2013.
“Morton has a nice senior class that had success at the younger levels, and the entire team is playing with confidence now that it has a couple of wins,” the Pekin coach said.
“Defensively, we need to pursue the ball and stay on our reads because Morton’s offense goes from sideline to sideline,” he said. “Offensively, we have to protect the ball.”
Turnovers have played a huge role in the Dragons’ season. They had only one in the three games they’ve won and a dozen in the two games they’ve lost.
Sterling and Canton have beaten Pekin. Their combined record is 9-1.
Morton’s defense was solid in the Potters’ wins over Limestone and Dunlap, shutting out Limestone and allowing only one touchdown to Dunlap.
“We’re going to have to play good defense against Pekin because they have some talented athletes in their offense,” Brilley said. “We can’t give up big plays. I’m a defensive guy, so I know the importance of a good defense.”
Quarterback Mason Carr, wide receiver Julian Hill and running back Michael Dickey are the Dragons’ most dangerous offensive weapons.
Carr is 56-of-97 passing for 593 yards and six touchdowns and he’s rushed 33 times for 170 yards and four TDs. Hill has five catches for 148 yards and two TDs and he’s rushed 16 times for 128 yards and two TDs.
Dickey, who took over as the Dragons’ featured runner in Week 4 vs. Canton, has rushed for 165 yards and two TDs.
To be successful offensively, Brilley said, his team has to be able to run the ball against Pekin’s big and physical defense. The Potters established their running game against Limestone and Dunlap.
Bradley Getz (504 yards, 10.3 yards per carry average, six TDs) and Nolan Donald (377 yards, 7.7 yards per carry average) are Morton’s top rushers.
Quarterback Tucker Anderson is 40-of-82 passing for 488 yards and four TDs. He’s also the leading tackler on defense with 31 stops from the secondary.
The Pekin Times Sports Staff will select a Kouri’s Pekin Times Star of the Game from Pekin. The winner will receive a $25 gift card from Kouri’s Pub on Court Street.