MANTENO — The old adage about throwing out the records when playing rivals couldn’t have been more accurate on Friday when Manteno stunned Peotone 14-7 at home on Homecoming. The Panthers stopped the run and managed enough offense to keep their playoff hopes alive and win the Rumble on Route 50.
The Panthers improved to 3-4 overall with the win and 3-2 in Illinois Central Eight play. The Blue Devils fell to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in ICE play.
Manteno’s defense forced two turnovers on Peotone’s first two drives of the game. The Panthers recovered a fumble on the Peotone’s opening drive and Luke Trepanier intercepted Max Gesswein on the second drive to give Manteno the momentum early.
“A few plays before the interception I read a hitch and just missed from intercepting it,” Trepanier said. “I knew Peotone would come back to it and I was ready the second time.”
Caleb Borkenhagen connected to wide receiver Cole Jackson from 12 yards out on the first play of the second quarter to give Manteno a 7-0 lead. Borkenhagen dropped back and drew the safety to the left side of the field with his eyes before looking right and hitting Jackson on the banana route for six points.
With 6:28 remaining in the half, Gesswein intercepted Borkenhagen and returned the ball into Panther territory. A horsecollar penalty on the play gave the Blue Devils a start from the 21-yard line.
Peotone was unable to convert the turnover to points though, as the Panthers defense came up with a huge stop on fourth and two from the three-yard line. Gesswein rolled out and completed a pass to his tight end, but was out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Panthers with two minutes left in the half.
The interior defensive line play of Josh and Jeremy Gesky and Margarito Carrera kept the Blue Devils vaulted double-wing attack in check, and middle linebacker Davey Wurster was able to pick up the pieces resulting in minimal yards for Peotone.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Borkenhagen pumped faked a bubble screen to Jackson and hit Trepanier on a fly route for an 86-yard touchdown to put Manteno up 14-0.
“We kept running a bunch of screens,” Trepanier said. “We figured Peotone was going to bite on those. Borkenhagen threw a good ball, and I just ran my tail off for the touchdown.”
Peotone responded with a scoring drive to put their first points on the board when Sam Biedron led the Blue Devils down the field and found paydirt from one yard out to cut the lead to 14-7 with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Panthers drove deep into Peotone territory and threatened to score halfway through the fourth quarter, but the Blue Devils stood tall when Andrea Protti intercepted Borkenhagen in the endzone to make things interesting. Gesswein immediately went up top right away to Logan Heflin for a 60-yard touchdown, but the play was called back on a hold.
Carrera went on to record a sack on Gesswein later to kill the drive and give the Panthers the ball back with 4:30 left in the game.
Manteno melted some clock, but a penalty stopped the drive, and Peotone got the ball with two minutes left.
Gesswein led the Blue Devils to midfield when Wurster stripped the ball from Peotone and regained possession to seal the win.
“This is a great win for us,” Manteno coach R.J. Haines said. “I have a lot of respect for (Peotone) coach (Apostolos Tsiamas). He used to coach for me and his kids really play hard.”
“But I’m proud of my guys. We knew we had to be ready for a fight. We knew we would have to make some plays and we did,” he added. “They really stepped up when they needed to.”
Haines also credited defensive coordinator Steve St. Jean for stopping the Blue Devils heralded double-wing attack.
“Coach St. Jean did a hell of a job preparing for Peotone. He spent a lot of hours just picking up on little things and putting the boys in the right positions,” Haines said. “And the other thing is that our kids have played some really talented offenses this year. And we have seen a lot of improvement as a result of it.”
For Manteno, Borkenhagen was 9-for-18 passing for 178 yards and two touchdowns and an interception, while also adding 72 yards rushing on 14 carries. Wurster chipped in 47 yards on the ground. Trepanier led the receivers with four grabs for 133 yards and a touchdown and also added an interception on defense. Jackson had three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.
The Blue Devils were led by Biedron, who ran for 72 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Ben Balmer added 46 yards on a dozen attempts. Gesswein was 5-for-11 passing for 48 yards and one interception.
Both teams are back in action next Friday at 7 p.m. Manteno will hit the road to play Streator while the Blue Devils will host Lisle.