GREGORY — Rylan Peck is a gamer and a playmaker.

At least, that’s how Gregory football coach Mike Murray describes his team’s quarterback, who is a major reason why the Gorillas have rolled to three straight wins following a season-opening defeat.

“Rylan is doing well and learning a lot,” Murray said. “I’m very pleased with his performance so far, as I am with the whole team. If he doesn’t have guys blocking or catching the ball or running the ball hard, he’s not going to have the same success. It’s a real team effort. We’re young all the way around and we’re getting better every week. That’s really what excites me.”

In each of their three wins, the Gorillas, who play in Class 9A, defeated their opponent by at least 25 points. This includes handing Burke and Kimball/White Lake their only losses to date in back-to-back weeks.

“We’ve just been putting in a lot of extra work and getting everyone in the flow of the game,” Peck said regarding Gregory’s recent form. “I think we’re just having more fun than we were in the first game, too. We’ve got some good plays in, beaten some pretty good teams. That’s been a big highlight.”

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Gregory quarterback Rylan Peck pitches the ball during a home game against Irene-Wakonda on Aug. 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Anna Dargatz, Gregory High School)
Gregory quarterback Rylan Peck pitches the ball during a home game against Irene-Wakonda on Aug. 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Anna Dargatz, Gregory High School)

When it comes to highlights, Peck has his share. During Gregory’s current win streak, Peck has amassed 390 yards on 18-of-30 passing, added 328 yards with an average of more than 9.6 yards per carry and accounted for 12 total touchdowns.

“Whenever he’s got the ball, he’s dangerous, and teams have to respect that,” Murray said. “He just has the ability to make things happen on the football field, and that’s the kind of guy you want to have the ball.”

But Peck’s playmaking contributions aren’t limited to when the Gorillas are on offense.

During a 45-14 win over Irene-Wakonda on Aug. 27, Peck was heavily involved in all three phases of the game. In addition to his 200 yards of total offense and four touchdowns from scrimmage, Peck had a 72-yard kick return touchdown on special teams as well as three sacks and a fumble recovery on defense.

“I’ve watched Rylan grow up and I know that he’s just a great athlete,” Murray said. “We were expecting that he’d be good, but what surprises me is how quickly he’s coming along.”

Peck, who was a receiver and Gregory’s backup quarterback last season, ended up missing most of the campaign after breaking his leg. So in what’s been his first true season of high school football, Peck admits he’s surprised himself.

“I didn’t think I was going to be as good as I am right now,” Peck said. “I’m still pushing to get a little better every week though. I’m getting more and more comfortable at the quarterback position, having fun, trusting my receivers and trusting the coaches’ calls.”

As Peck and the Gorillas aim to continue improving, they also find themselves in the midst of a five-game stretch against opponents with records currently at or above .500. Gregory may have dispatched Burke and Kimball/White Lake, but Parkston, Wolsey-Wessington and Platte-Geddes await.

Platte-Geddes and Parkston are both Class 9AA opponents. The former is the defending state champion in that class, and the latter is the only team to beat the Black Panthers since October 2019. Meanwhile, Wolsey-Wessington is ranked No. 4 in Class 9A, having only lost to top-ranked De Smet, and is the defending state champion in Class 9B.

“I’m telling these boys we are headed toward the meat grinder because it’s going to be tough,” Murray said. “But I think they’re up for the task, and I’m excited to see how they rise to the occasion.”

Gregory quarterback Rylan Peck looks downfield for a receiver during a home game on Aug. 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Anna Dargatz, Gregory High School)
Gregory quarterback Rylan Peck looks downfield for a receiver during a home game on Aug. 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Anna Dargatz, Gregory High School)