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Perryville and North East foot­ball pre­views

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig

PERRYVILLE — In­ex­pe­ri­ence, in­juries and close losses last sea­son contributed to Perryville’s first los­ing cam­paign un­der head coach Chris John­son.

Yet, de­spite fin­ish­ing with a 4-6 record, in­clud­ing just one road vic­tory, the Pan­thers found them­selves just a sin­gle vic­tory shy of se­cur­ing the fourth—and fi­nal— spot in what was a down year in the race for the 1A East Re­gion post­sea­son.

“To me, over­all, last year was a frus­trat­ing but re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” said John­son, who en­ters his sixth sea­son on the Perryville side­line. “When you have youth you tend to make a lot of mis­takes. They don’t un­der­stand the at­ten­tion to de­tail that it takes to be a good foot­ball team—the lit­tle things.

“Now we’re a year in and they’re a year older, a year stronger, a year faster and they’ve worked hard in the weight room so our ex­pec­ta­tions this year are a lot higher than they were last year. The kids are work­ing hard and you can tell they want to be good.”

John­son will look to a pair of se­niors to lead the way af­ter the duo ex­pe­ri­enced their first full sea­son as starters in 2015.

Quar­ter­back Do­minic Gugliotta re­turns as a se­nior af­ter show­cas­ing an abil­ity to throw from the pocket and make plays on the run last sea­son, fin­ish­ing the year with 1,070 pass­ing yards, 101 rush­ing yards and 10 com­bined touch­downs in nine games.

“It’s def­i­nitely a com­fort fac­tor be­ing the starter again this year. I’m ex­cited to build around this team and I think we have a good shot to do really well this year,” Gugliotta said. “It was dif­fer­ent [be­ing the starter last year]. You get more reps than usual in prac­tice, the team was real nice to me as I grew through it and it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence. Hope­fully it will have an im­pact this year.”

Se­nior full­back Zac Zacer­ous, who rushed for 1,005 yards and 12 scores on 141 car­ries last sea­son, will join his quar­ter­back as a vet­eran leader in the hud­dle. He will also an­chor the Pan­thers’ de­fense as a line­backer fol­low­ing a ju­nior cam­paign in which he earned All-County hon­ors and a spot on the All-State hon­or­able men­tion squad. Last year, Zacer­ous made 106 to­tal tack­les, in­clud­ing 15 for a loss, and 7.5 sacks.

“Last year I got to step up as a leader for the team and this year it gets to carry over into my se­nior year. Hope­fully I get to lead these guys far,” Zacer­ous said. “The se­niors this year are more lead­ers. Not to take any­thing away from last year’s se­niors but this year’s se­niors are more hun­gry. They’re ready to win a state cham­pi­onship.”

Gugliotta, who missed part of one game and all of an­other with a con­cus­sion, rep­re­sented one of sev­eral play­ers on the Pan­thers side­lined with in­juries.

“Last year was tough be­cause of the in­juries,” said Zacer­ous, one of only three play­ers on the de­fense to ap­pear in all 10 games. “With­out most of [the in­juries] we would have had a suc­cess­ful sea­son. Peo­ple had to step up into new po­si­tions and we worked through it.”

Ju­nior Bai­ley Ar­mour also re­turns af­ter re­ceiv­ing a spot on the All-County squad and the All-State hon­or­able men­tion team as a kicker/punter. He is ex­pected to step up as a leader along with se­nior guard/de­fen­sive line­man Cullen Mc­Coy, who has been on var­sity ev­ery year since he was a fresh­man.

“I think we’re def­i­nitely bet­ter than last year. I’m very hope­ful for the fu­ture,” Mc­Coy said. “I think this team has grown a lot, es­pe­cially since last year. We were real young last year. and ev­ery­one knew that.

“I don’t know if teams are sleep­ing on us be­cause ev­ery­one knows we went to the state cham­pi­onship five year ago [in 2011],” Mc­Coy added. “Ev­ery­one wants to beat us. We just have to play games well and play at a high level.”

Part of the Pan­thers’ success this sea­son will hinge on win­ning close games. Last year, Perryville lost to even­tual 3A play­off team Aberdeen and 1A state run­nerup Havre de Grace de­spite trail­ing by one score in the third quar­ter against both op­po­nents.

Perryville’s one-score loss to Ce­cil County ri­val Bo­hemia Manor in early Oc­to­ber per­haps ended the Pan­thers’ post­sea­son hopes. The Ea­gles, which ended the reg­u­lar sea­son 5-5, se­cured the fi­nal East Re­gion play­off spot, even­tu­ally fall­ing to Havre de Grace in the open­ing round.

“The nice thing about last year was, as you watched it, even with youth and the in­juries … I saw im­prove­ment through­out the year. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” John­son said. “If the kids work hard and con­tinue to im­prove I ex­pect good things from this team.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOR­DAN SCHATZ

Perryville se­nior quar­ter­back Do­minic Gugliotta, left, is one of sev­eral re­turn­ing starters.

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