From one huge game to another.
One week after beating another team tied for the Mid-Illini Conference lead, the Pekin football team will travel to Washington on Friday for a game that once again will have first place on the line.
Pekin (4-2, 3-1) and Washington (4-2, 3-1) are in a four-way tie atop the eight-team conference along with Canton and Metamora just past the halfway point of the conference season.
Morton, which lost 23-0 last week to Pekin, is a game behind the leaders.
“This race is good for our conference,” said Washington coach Darrell Crouch. “It makes for a great atmosphere at every conference game each week.”
A neck injury suffered last week by Washington star Garrett Frank could play a huge role in Friday’s game at Babcook Field.
Frank is the Panthers’ leading receiver by far and a dangerous kickoff and punt returner and at free safety, he’s the last line of defense when opposing teams have the ball.
He has 16 catches for 229 yards and four touchdown. His 488 all-purpose yards and 36 points also lead the team.
If Frank is unable to play against Pekin, Caleb Fisher will take his spot on defense. The same Caleb Fisher who is Washington’s quarterback.
“Having Garrett available is pivotal because we have to shut down Pekin’s receivers,” Crouch said.
Pekin’s most dangerous receiver is Julian Hill. Frank will cover Hill if he’s healthy. If Frank is out, the assignment will go to Sam Walter.
Hill has 13 catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns, 131 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and a whopping 848 all-purpose yards when kickoff and punt returns, interception yardage and a 72-yard run with a fumble for a touchdown are added to his receiving and rushing yards.
He’s also Pekin’s leading tackler with 32.5 total tackles including 27 solos. He’s had six tackles for a loss and broken up four passes.
“We can’t control everything Hill does, so we need to limit the damage he causes,” Crouch said.
Pekin coach Doug Nutter said he thinks Friday’s game will be won in the trenches.
“We have to match Washington’s physicality because they’re bigger than us,” he said. “Defensively, we have to stop the run, plain and simple. And we can’t let their quarterback (Fisher) scramble out of the pocket.
“Even though he’s a sophomore, you can see on film that he’s playing with more confidence each week.”
Crouch said Fisher has an unbelievable upside, but he’s made mistakes this season trying to make every play perfect.
Fisher is 52-of-85 passing for 670 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s had four passes intercepted. He’s also rushed for 171 yards and two TDs.
Josh Schellenberg (319 yards, 5.1 yards per carry average, four TDs) and Mason Diedrich (303 yards, 6.4 yards per carry average, three TDs) are Washington’s leading rushers.
Washington placekicker Drew Yoder is having a perfect season. He’s 16-of-16 on PATs and 3-of-3 on field goals. Pekin placekicker Nathan Righi has 22 PATs and one field goal.
Defensively, Adam Robison leads the way for Washington with 45.5 total tackles and Dietrich has 32 total tackles. Each also has four sacks.
Michael Dickey, who became Pekin’s featured runner in Week 4, leads the team with 329 yards rushing. He’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry and has scored four touchdowns.
Dragons quarterback Mason Carr is 72-of-129 passing for 821 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s had five passes intercepted. He’s rushed for 189 yards and four TDs.
Cameron Whitford leads Pekin in pass receptions with 17.
Christian Hill, Julian Hill’s younger brother, has a team-best three interceptions.
GAME NOTES: Nutter said offensive tackle Cody Catton should return to action after being injured in a Week 2 loss to Sterling. ... look for Pekin linebacker Logen Howell, who led the Dragons in tackles against Morton, to see substantial playing time again Friday. An injury forced Howell out of action until Pekin’s Week 5 win over East Peoria. ... Crouch said mistakes including dropped passes and penalties have been hurting his team, and those areas need to be cleaned up against Pekin. ...Kickoff Friday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.