Canton scored 57 points against the Pekin football team last season en route to a 57-35 victory. This year the Little Giants had little luck against the Dragons' defense.
Pekin beat Canton 31-7 Friday night at Memorial Stadium behind a masterful defensive effort that included a game-changing goal-line stand.
The Little Giants gained only 127 yards.
"Quite a turnaround from last season," said Pekin coach Doug Nutter.
Dragons linebacker Ian Stubblefield said the Pekin defense executed its game plan against Canton's dangerous single-wing offense.
"We worked on it over and over and over all week in practice," he said. "Everyone was where they needed to be during the game."
"That's a very hard offense to prepare for," he said. "Our scout team did a great job getting our defense ready for what it would see."
First-year Canton coach Cody Myers was impressed with the Dragons.
"They're a better team than last year and their kids were better than our kids (Friday)," he said.
Pekin (2-2, 1-1) ended a two-game losing streak in the Mid-Illini Conference game. Canton (2-2, 0-2) now has a two-game losing streak.
Ahead 3-0 midway through the second quarter thanks to a 24-yard first-quarter field goal by Nathan Righi, Pekin gave Canton a huge opportunity.
The Little Giants started a drive at the Dragons' 9 because of a punt by Righi that went minus-3 yards after he leaped to bring down a high snap and had to scramble to boot the ball.
Canton couldn't score. Quarterback Clint Wells was stopped inside the 1-yard line on fourth down on a Pekin defensive charge led by linebacker Michael Pruitt.
The Dragons then went 99 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown, scoring on an 8-yard pass from Quinn Theleritis to Brad Johnson with 7.2 seconds left in the half.
"What a drive," Nutter said.
Canton kept Pekin's nearly 4 1/2-minute drive alive by jumping offside on a third-down play and being flagged for roughing the passer.
The Dragons led 10-0 at halftime and took a ton of momentum into the locker room.
"Our kids were down at halftime. And upset," Myers said.
An interception by Pekin's Christian Hill set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Stubblefield that gave the Dragons a 17-0 lead with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
Canton showed some life on its next possession. Wells scrambled and found Drake Yerbic open behind Pekin's defense for a 68-yard pass on the Little Giants' first play and Ethan Magnuson ran 5 yards for a touchdown on the next play.
A fumble recovery by Canton's Garhett Petty ended Pekin's next drive, but the Dragons' Logen Howell intercepted a Wells pass two plays later.
Righi turned a snap over his head in the fourth quarter into a 21-yard punt, then
Pekin took advantage of a 5-yard Canton punt by Nathan Lucas -- again the result of a bad snap -- to put the game away.
Stubblefield scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run to make it 24-7 and
Conner Rush ran 50 yards into the end zone with an interception 44 seconds later.
Theleritis finished 20-for-28 through the air for 222 yards. Braden Lavin (eight catches, 74 yards), Johnson (six catches, 71 yards) and Hill (four catches, 64 yards) were his favorite receivers. They ran well after making catches.
Brayden Cruz was Pekin's leading rusher with 45 yards on 10 attempts, but he hurt his right knee in the fourth quarter and left the field on crutches.
Stubblefield ran for 37 yards on 14 attempts. The senior said he enjoys playing both ways after playing mostly defense last year.
"It keeps you more involved in the game," he said.
Wells, Canton's quarterback, was 3-for-14 passing for 82 yards. He was intercepted three times. He also was the Little Giants' top rusher with 30 yards on 13 carries.
Nutter liked what he saw from his team during four quarters Friday after the Dragons struggled for 2 1/2 quarters the previous week in a 37-21 loss at Dunlap.
"Our kids played hard and with a purpose, and they were fast and physical," he said.
As for those high snaps on punts -- another bad snap cost the Dragon a safety against Dunlap -- Nutter said they'll will be addressed this week in practice.
"Plus, we have other things we need to clean up," he said. "We had a holding call (against Canton) that cost us a touchdown."
Righi made great plays on both high snaps Friday.
"Nathan is a multi-sport athlete," Nutter said. "That's how you hope he'll react to those situations."
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.