It began with a kickoff return for a touchdown and ended with a goal-line stand.
In between, Pekin dismantled Limestone 56-0 Friday night at Memorial Stadium in a Mid-Illini Conference and season finale for both teams played with a running clock in the second half.
The Dragons (4-5, 3-4) shook off the disappointment of having their playoff hopes dashed the previous week when they lost to Metamora.
With the loss, the Rockets (0-9, 0-7) went winless for the first time since 1995.
“Our kids wanted to end the season the right way,” said Pekin coach Doug Nutter. “They went back to work after the Metamora game, and focused on improving and beating Limestone on Senior Night.
“Our seniors will be missed. They’ve worked hard and been good leaders.”
It was a long season for Limestone coach Darin Driscoll, his staff and players. He said the problems actually began before the season when a few players were lost for the year because of injuries.
“We were thin in numbers already,” he said. “Then we had some kids quit during the season. The ones who stayed fought hard in every practice and game and I’m proud of them.
“You’re going to have tough times in your life. If you learn how to overcome them, you’ll be a success. If you don’t, you’ll fall apart at every roadblock.”
Friday’s game started dramatically with an 82-yard kickoff return for a score by Pekin sophomore Devin Tovrea, who weaved his way through several Limestone defenders after finding an open lane down a sideline.
It was Tovrea’s only kickoff return of the season. He normally is farther up on Pekin’s kickoff return team, but the Dragons were expecting an onside kick from Limestone.
“Devin is an athletic kid and he showed his potential there,” Nutter said about Tovrea, who was a starter at safety.
Limestone’s Daniel Huber was stopped on the Pekin 1-yard line on the game’s final play as Dragons reserves preserved the shutout.
Pekin ran only 20 offensive plays all night (Limestone had 64) and sure made the most of them. The Dragons compiled 312 total yards, averaged 15.6 yards per play, and never punted.
Quarterback Quinn Theleritis was 4-for-4 passing for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Backup Nathan Righi was 1-for-1 through the air for 23 yards and a TD.
Brad Johnson had two catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Christian Hill caught a 60-yard TD pass, Sebastian Hill had a 19-yard TD catch and Brody Carroll caught a 23-yard scoring pass from Righi.
Brayden Cruz was Pekin’s leading rusher with 55 yards on seven carries. He ran 36 yards for a touchdown.
Braden Lavin scored on a 3-yard run and a 50-yard interception return.
Righi was perfect on eight PATs.
Limestone quarterback Blake Fengel shook off a first-quarter knee injury to go 17-for-34 passing for 167 yards. He was intercepted twice.
Brandon Rhoades replaced Fengel briefly after Fengel was hurt on a run and went 0-for-3 passing, but he had a potential TD pass dropped in the end zone.
Huber ran 11 times for 53 yards and he had five catches for 43 yards.
Pekin led 42-0 with 9:34 to go in the second quarter. At that point, the Dragons’ offense had scored four touchdowns on five plays.
Theleritis and Johnson hooked up on a 50-yard touchdown pass and Lavin ran for a touchdown after Tovrea’s kickoff return to give the Dragons a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
A fumble recovery by Pekin’s Gavin Reese on the first play of the second quarter set up a TD pass from Theleritis to Sebastian Hill.
Lavin’s 50-yard pick six, a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff by Pekin’s Jack Marlatt after a crunching hit by Braden Brown, and Cruz’s run for a score all happened within 19 seconds and put Pekin in front 42-0 at halftime.
Limestone threatened to score at the end of the half, but Reese knocked down a pass on the final play after the Rockets reached the Pekin 7-yard line.
The Dragons added touchdowns in the second half on a pass from Theleritis to Christian Hill in the third quarter and a pass from Righi to Carroll in the fourth quarter.
Logen Howell led Pekin’s defensive effort with 6.5 tackles including four solos. Ian Stubblefield had 5.5 tackles with four
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.