PEOTONE — In the battle pitting Streator’s vaunted passing game led by Jimmy Tredway against Peotone’s tough winged-T ground game paced by Ben Balmer, things were pretty much even for two quarters.
But in the latter two periods, there wasn't much the Bulldogs could do, because they simply didn’t have the ball.
Riley McCurdy took the opening kickoff back 87 yards Friday to the game’s first score and, after Peotone answered, Streator took the lead again on a 2-yard run by Dominic Haws. But from that point in the Illinois Central Eight Conference encounter — specifically the 8-minute, 11-second mark of the second period — the Blue Devils' ground game dominated, possessing the ball for 27:30 of the next 32-plus minutes on their way to a 33-14 victory over the Bulldogs here at Peotone Junior High.
Tredway on the night completed 19-of-32 passes for 191 yards for the ‘Dogs. However, 162 of those yards came on 14-of-20 passing in the first half, because the rest of the way Peotone just didn’t let him have the ball, using its ground game to monopolize the clock on marches to the final three touchdowns of the contest and drop SHS to 2-4, 1-3 in the ICE.
The Devils, now 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the loop, finished with 50 carries for 270 yards, 151 on 27 tries by the hard-running Balmer and 89 on 18 carries by speedy Kenny Johnson to chew up all but five minutes of the final 24 minutes.
Peotone ended up with a whoopping 32:10 to 15:40 edge in possession time.
“They controlled the ball, as simple as that,” said Streator coach Brian Hassett. “That’s a good team, they’re 5-1, they’re a playoff team. Our kids competed and played hard against them, but we just came up short in the second half. We had the opportunity to make a couple of different plays and we didn’t. … We left 10 points on the field in the first half. We just didn’t finish our drives.
“I also think we’re a playoff team, too, and I told the kids that. This is reminiscent of 2017 when we needed three wins in a row to get there, and I think this team can do it.”
The Bulldogs just might if they get big plays off the bat like McCurdy provided, breaking to his right and then up the middle for the big opening score. The kick from Greg Rashid made it 7-0 and set the Devils defense back on their heels the rest of the half.
The hosts answered with a 69-yard drive to the tying score, the last 39 yards on a surprise pass from QB Max Gesswein to tight end Logan Heflin that, with Nate Rivera’s kick, tied it at 7.
Streator took the lead again on the arm of Tredway, his four completions on the series setting up Haws’ short plunge. The boot made it 14-7, but not for long. The Devils pounded the ball from sideline to sideline toward a 6-yard score by Johnson to knot the score at the half.
It kept the momentum in the third period, marching 73 yards with another Gesswein pass, this time 15 yards to Henry Chadraba, to put Peotone in front for good.
After SHS turned the ball over on downs, the Devils drove to the clinching tally, an 18-yarder by Balmer with 8:33 left in the fourth. The final tally was a 6-yard burst by Alan Sunday with 42 seconds left.
“I can’t repeat what I said to our guys at halftime, but all I know is that it worked,” said Peotone coach Apostolos Tsiamas. “That kickoff return certainly didn’t help us. It gave them a ton of momentum at the start, and they kind of played like it the rest of the first half. … I wasn’t happy with the defensive effort in the first half, and we still only gave up one score.
“I was proud of the way our offense regrouped in the second half. Our motto is if we have the football, they can’t score. We’re not going to break any offensive records with what we do, maybe time of possession, but if we have it they can’t score, and that’s why that kickoff return was so big … but once we went up in the third quarter, that gave our defense the confidence to go out and make plays.”
Streator (2-4, 1-3) 7 7 0 0 — 14
Peotone (5-1, 3-1) 7 7 7 12 — 33
STR — McCurdy 87 kickoff return (Rashid kick), 11:45, 0-7.
PEO — Heflin 39 pass from Gesswein (Rivera kick), 8:24, 7-7.
STR — Haws 2 run (Benning kick), 8:11, 7-14.
PEO — Johnson 6 run (Rivera kick), 1:02, 14-14.
PEO — Chadraba 15 pass from Gesswein (Rivera kick), 4:53, 21-14.
PEO — Balmer 18 run (kick failed), 8:33, 27-14.
PEO — Sunday 6 run (kick failed), :46, 33-14.
First downs 13 25
Rushes-Yards 9-27 50-270
Passing yards 191 54
Comp-Att-Int. 19-32-0 2-4-0
Total offense 325 267
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 4-1
Penalties-Yards 5-30 4-20
Time of possession 15:50 32:10
RUSHING: Streator — Murphy 3-12, Haws 2-11, Tredway 4-4; Peotone — Balmer 27-151, Johnson 18-89, Sunday 5-30, Gesswein 3-8.
PASSING (C-A-TD-INT-YD): Streator — Tredway 19-32-0-0-191; Peotone – Gesswein 2-4-2-0-54.
RECEIVING: Streator — Murphy 9-80, Kurdziolek 6-71, Benning 1-9, Greer 1-3, Webb 1-2; Peotone – Heflin 1-39, Chadraba 1-15.