In Week 5, Peotone couldn't finish off a quality opponent.
Three weeks later, the lessons learned in that loss came in handy as Peotone put together a nearly flawless second half in collecting a 30-24 victory over Coal City on Friday night.
Peotone had Wilmington on the ropes in Week 5 but let them off the hook as the Wildcats rallied for a win in the final minutes. The Blue Devils (7-1) once again dominated the early portion of the game, but mistakes allowed Coal City to hang close. After Coal City took a third quarter lead on a Carter Copes field goal midway through the third quarter, it was all Peotone the rest way.
"We always talk about learning from our mistakes," Peotone coach Apostolos Tsiamas said. "I don't think we win this game if Wilmington didn't happen. I'm so proud of our kids and the way they responded."
The Copes field goal gave Coal City a 24-22 lead, but the Blue Devils runnin g attack that had been profitable all game continued to pay dividends. Peotone marched down the field with Chandler Gartner netting the 1-yard touchdown and the conversion run to account for the remainder of the scoring.
That didn't mean the game lacked intrigue over the course of the fourth quarter. Peotone simply played keep away, grinding out yardage and draining the clock in the process. The things that thwarted them in the Wilmington loss were no longer a problem.
Gartner did the lion's share of the work, finishing with a whopping 239 yards. Dillon Buege also provided 121 yards rushing as the Blue Devils stacked up nearly 400 rushing yards on 59 attempts.
The statistical line benefits Gartner, but he couldn't have done it without stellar play from the offensive line. More often than not, Gartner would be four and five yards downfield before he was even approached by a defender and Gartner's punishing running drive slowly sapped the will of the Coal City defense.
"Our offensive line is just huge and they did great," Gartner said. "We just kept pounding at them all game, and they couldn't stop us. Our game plan coming in was to get three or four yards every play, and we executed that."
Coal City did have opportunities to claim victory, but a fourth-quarter drive was thwarted by an interception in the end zone, and unlike the first half where Peotone gave the Coalers extra chances and positive field position, they would not benefit from such charity during the stretch run.
"They ran the ball 59 times, and we couldn't stop them," Coal City coach Dan Hutchings said. "It was one those nights. You have to tip your hats to them. They are a good, physical football team, and they are set up for a playoff run in 3A."
Peotone will try to keep the momentum going against undefeated Herscher next week and while most would tab the Blue Devils as the heavy underdog, it wouldn't be wise to dismiss a confident bunch of Blue Devils.
"This gives us a great confidence boost going into Herscher," Gartner said. "They were 8-0 last year when we played them, but its a different team this year."