PEKIN — Let the hype begin.
The Metamora football team took care of its end of the bargain Friday night, beating Pekin 49-21 at Memorial Stadium in a Mid-Illini Conference game to stay unbeaten (7-0, 5-0) going into next week's showdown with unbeaten Washington (7-0, 5-0).
Metamora is ranked No. 7 in Class 5A. Washington is ranked No. 1 in Class 5A.
"That's the most talented Washington team I've seen in my three decades at Metamora," Redbirds coach Pat Ryan said Friday following a post-game talk with his team in which the arch-rival Panthers were mentioned several times.
Ryan told his team it needed to have an outstanding week of practice "because, well, I don't have to elaborate. But you've earned the right to play in such an important game. (Washington) will be a big challenge, but that's what life is about."
Speaking of big, 6-foot-8 Metamora quarterback Thomas Hall had a large game against Pekin (2-5, 1-4), throwing three touchdown passes to three different receivers.
Hall was 14-for-21 through the air for 193 yards. He threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to John Gatton, a 24-yarder to Jack Moore and a 5-yarder to Jon Nelson on the opening drive of the second half that put Metamora in front 42-7.
Moore had four catches for 91 yards. Gatton caught three passes for 74 yards.
Austin Ioerger ran for a pair of touchdown for Metamora while compiling 146 yards on the ground on 11 carries. Zach Poston had the longest of the Redbirds' TD's, running 86 yards for a score on the soggy turf in the second quarter.
Metamora had 569 yards in total offense against Pekin, which has given up 152 points to Washington, Metamora and Morton, the Mid-Illini's top three teams.
The only Metamora statistic Ryan didn't like Friday was his team's penalties. The Redbirds had nine of them for 85 yards.
"That's way too many penalties," Ryan said.
Pekin quarterback Nathan Righi ran for 179 yards on 12 carries against the Redbirds. He rushed for two touchdowns, scoring on a 3-yard run in the second quarter and a 78-yarder in the third quarter.
Metamora recovered three Pekin fumbles in the first quarter. Only one fumble was converted into a touchdown, but the drops certainly put a damper on the Dragons' homecoming night enthusiasm.
"I like how we were opportunistic early," Ryan said.
Pekin coach Doug Nutter didn't see the fumbles the same way.
"You can't turn the ball over three times against a state-ranked, undefeated team," he said.
Metamora led 15-0 after the first quarter and 35-7 at halftime. The 86-yard run by Poston put the Redbirds in front 29-0 before Righi scored his first touchdown.
Metamora backup quarterback Vinny Querciasgrossa bulled into the end zone from a yard out with 2:02 left in the third quarter to give the Redbirds a 49-7 lead and start a running clock for the remainder of the game.
Pekin backup quarterback Wyatt Van Ness also got into the scoring column when he threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sebastian Hill with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Friday's loss knocked the Dragons out of state playoff contention. They'll be playing for pride the rest of the season.
"Our guys will compete in our last two games (against Mid-Illini opponents East Peoria and Limestone)," Nutter said. "They won't back down."
Ryan said his team didn't take the Dragons lightly.
"Three weeks ago, I talked about us having a gauntlet of four straight games against Dunlap, Morton, Pekin and Washington," he said. "These are all tough teams."
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.