LENA — Just like in the spring, Lena-Winslow was driving down the field late in the game with a chance to take charge of the NUIC on Friday night.
But this time, Durand/Pecatonica found a way to finish the job.
Du/Pec snuffed out a last-chance drive by top-ranked Le-Win, with Trenton Taylor hauling in an interception near midfield with 35 seconds left to secure a 30-24 win.
Du/Pec (6-1, 6-0 NUIC) not only handed Le-Win (6-1, 5-1) its first loss of the season, but it snapped the Panthers’ 18-game conference winning streak. The last time Le-Win lost in conference play was to E/PC in Week 5 in 2018.
It also put Du/Pec’s fate in its own hands for the NUIC title. Now, if the Rivermen win their last two games, the title is theirs.
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“If you just look at our sidelines after his one, that will tell you the magnitude of this win,” said Du/Pec quarterback Hunter Hoffman, who completed 19 of his 24 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. “It’s like the greatest feeling I’ve ever had. … It’s the opposite of how we felt last year.”
Le-Win drove the ball 80 yards in the final three minutes and scored with 12 seconds left to win 24-21 over Du/Pec in the spring, claiming the unofficial conference title. The Panthers then dominated their first six games this season, heading into Friday’s key matchup on a roll. Du/Pec, on the other hand, suffered a midseason nonconference loss to Decatur St. Teresa, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.
But the Rivermen got the upper hand back on Friday. They bolted out to a 22-0 second-quarter lead to take control early, and held on.
“This is our rivals; this is the team we had to beat,” said defensive end and tight end Jake Anderson, who is headed to Illinois State next year. “We knew it would be a dog fight, but we knew we could take them. This is huge.”
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Taylor also had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, racking up 102 yards on 16 carries with a TD. Trent Hetland had 12 catches for 135 yards and a TD for the Rivermen.
Le-Win, the four-time state champs who were ranked No. 1 in Class 1A headed in, got a 31-yard Hail Mary touchdown reception by Brody Mahon with no time left on he clock in the firs half. They also got 72 yards rushing from Ethan Fye and 63 from Marey Roby, while QB Luke Benson threw for 67 yards and his second and third touchdowns of the season.
But it wasn’t enough.
“It just came down to they made the plays late, and we didn’t,” Roby said. “This is a tough one to take, but we have to get over it. There’s a lot more football to go.”