CHESTERLAND–A tight, back and forth first half gave way to a physical, hard-fought battle over the final two quarters as the multi-dimensional Perry offense opened things up considerably and the defense got some key stops in a 28-7 road win over West Geauga on Friday.
“I was proud that we put four quarters together (tonight),” Perry coach Bob Gecewich said after the win. “I know that’s so cliché to say, but we’ve had a handful of games where we’ve had to go the distance and I thought we had some different guys step up and take advantage of opportunities–I mean, West G is a really good football team–and that was a physical football game, and that’s what playoff football is. Tonight, we got a bit of a one-week preview of that, which is good.”
Early on, the Wolverines were clearly pulling out all the stops, opening the game with an onside kick attempt that Perry recovered at the West G 45-yard line. The Pirates immediately got started establishing the mobile and aerial threat of sophomore signal-caller Brayden Richards, although a timely sack from West G’s Austin Pascoe left the visitors staring down an early 4th-and-6 in Wolverine territory.
The yardage turned out to be no matter though, as Richards collected the shotgun snap and coolly lofted a 30-yard touchdown to brother Javin Richards down the left sideline for the game’s first score.
The host Wolverines would find pay dirt on their first drive as well, but not without overcoming a 3rd-and-12 of their own when senior Danny Stewart connected with senior receiver Chris Renallo–on senior night, no less–running free behind the Pirate defense for a 44-yard game-tying strike up the right seam.
Perry immediately answered after a short kick return with a 69-yard touchdown toss from Richards to senior Brock Sivon, giving the visitors a one-possession lead that they would take into the halftime break.
The Wolverine offense opened up with the ball in the second half and quickly went to work establishing a rhythm, particularly via the ground game behind the legs of Stewart and running back David Fofana.
The Pirate defense would eventually make their presence felt on the drive though, with one of the game’s biggest plays as defensive end Jayden Anderson pushed a West Geauga runner out of bounds well short of the marker on 4th-and six, giving the ball back to an already hot offense once again in plus field position.
Javin Richards’ rumbling, physical 45-yard run up the middle set the Pirates up with 1st-and-goal from the seven with eight minutes left in the third quarter, and a couple plays later it, was the bruising senior back Anderson waltzing up the gut into the end zone for a three-yard score.
Now trailing by two touchdowns, the hosts again couldn’t sustain a scoring drive on offense, and the two sides would go on to trade possessions without either side finding the end zone, sending the game to the final quarter with Perry holding onto the still comfortable two-score advantage.
The Wolverines opened the fourth driving on offense with a 1st-and-10 at midfield, but yet again the stout Perry defense clamped down, this time forcing a long 4th-and-9 attempt from the Perry 38.
Stewart was sacked by senior defensive lineman Logan Cosiano and fumbled on the play, and the loose ball was recovered by lineman Luca Gasbarillo just across midfield.
The Pirates took over at the 48, and the Pirate ground game went to work yet again, chewing clock and yardage until it was time to pull out a nice play-action pass to Cosiano on 3rd-and-five that gave Perry a fresh set of downs to work with at the West G four-yard line.
Jayden Anderson would pick up his second rushing score of the night, to go along with two sacks, soon thereafter on yet another three-yard plunge through the A-gap, cementing the commanding 28-7 road victory with just under five minutes left in the contest.
On the West Geauga side of things, head coach Adam Sopkovich lamented some missed chances and mistakes that left his side behind the chains on offense throughout much of the contest.
“We hurt ourselves with penalties and we got behind on third down, got into a lot of not great third and long situations. We were just shooting ourselves in the foot a lot tonight,” he said. “Our defense played well, I have total confidence in our defense, and I know our offense can do better than seven points, so we’re going to watch the film and we’ll correct some things and hopefully get a better result next week.”