MORTON — The Little Giants came up big when they needed it the most.
Playing smash-mouth football and dominating in the trenches, Canton surprised state-ranked Morton 42-22 Friday night on the Potters' home artificial turf at Carper Field.
Canton (5-3, 3-3) made itself playoff eligible with its third straight win.
No. 7 Class 5A Morton (6-2, 4-2), which clinched its first playoff berth since 2011 last week, was knocked out of the race for the Mid-Illini Conference championship by the loss.
"This was the best game we played from start to finish all season," said first-year Canton coach Cody Myers. "Our defense and special teams were outstanding."
The Little Giants' offense wasn't too shabby, either.
Canton rushed for 325 yards and quarterback Clint Wells had quite a night.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior ran 21 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns. He threw only three passes, and completed them all to Nathan Lucas. Two went for touchdowns.
Lucas caught a 25-yard pass from Wells for the first score of the game. Wells floated the ball to a wide-open Lucas over the Morton defense.
The pair hooked up on a 59-yard TD strike early in the third quarter. After catching the pass, Wells pulled away from a Morton defender and raced into the end zone.
Canton's Ethan Magnuson was the game's leading rusher with 158 yards on 25 carries.
The Little Giants' defense reduced Morton's triple threat offense to just one threat. Jarrett Crider ran for all three Potters touchdowns and he rushed for 141 yards on eight carries.
Nolan Donald (eight carries, 19 yards) and Bradley Getz (six carries, 29 yards) didn't make much of an impact on the game. Donald was 1-for-2 passing for 15 yards.
"I don't think I've ever watched as much film as I did this week," Myers said, referring to Morton's offense.
"Their offense is so fast and so difficult to predict," Myers said. "All three of those guys (Crider, Donald and Getz) can score anytime they touch the ball."
Probably the best way to stop Morton's offense is to not let it on the field and the Little Giants did just that with long drives that resulted in 23 first downs to the Potters' eight, and 64 plays to Morton's 27.
Canton kept drives alive by going 9-for-10 on third-down conversions, a 90 percent success rate.
"That was our goal. Keep the ball," Myers said. "We're a 'slow' team, but that's fine with me."
Morton coach Tim Brilley praised Canton.
"Give them credit. They played a great game," he said. "They were very physical. That was the big difference. We couldn't stop the run. We couldn't stop the pass, either. We didn't play to our potential."
Canton never trailed, but the score was tied 15-15 late in the first half when the Little Giants took control.
Magnuson scored on a 5-yard run up the middle on the final play of the second quarter to give Canton a 22-15 lead at the intermission.
Morton went three-and-out after taking the second-half kickoff and the Little Giants scored three plays later on the 59-yard pass from Wells to Lucas.
Canton's Zach Collier recovered an onside kick and the Little Giants were back in the end zone on their third play on a 2-yard run by Wells.
Suddenly, it was 36-15 with 7:33 left in the third quarter. It was 42-15 before Crider scored the game's final touchdown on a 38-yard run with 8:32 to go.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.