Cecil Whig - - LO­CAL SPORTS -

Per­ryville wasted no time get­ting on the board, as Gugliotta threw a hor­i­zon­tal pass to Zacer­ous on the sec­ond play of their first drive, and Zacer­ous dashed 53 yards to the house to tie the game. Zack Strong split the up­rights with the first of his seven ex­tra points to put the hosts in front to stay, 7-6.

“He’s a beast, he runs hard and even makes me look good on some throws,” Gugliotta said of Zacer­ous, who also ran for 117 yards on just six car­ries. “He does a great job of get­ting open and mak­ing plays. He’s the heart and soul of this team and we rely on him.”

The Pan­thers started their next drive bot­tled up in­side their own 5-yard line, but Gug-

li­otta’s big-play prow­ess erased that set­back. He con­nected down­field with ju­nior Billy Boyer for an 88-yard touch­down.

Per­ryville took con­trol in the sec­ond quar­ter, re­cov­er­ing fum­bles on Ris­ing Sun’s next two drives. The first put the Pan­thers at the Tiger 20, and af­ter they con­verted on fourth down with the help of a face­mask penalty against Ris­ing Sun, Timmy Clark crossed the goal line on a 7-yard scam­per. Per­ryville snatched the ball away again, this time deep in its own ter­ri­tory. Zacer­ous then blew through the line with a 46-yard dash, and then Gugliotta hit ju­nior Bailey Ar­mour in traf­fic for a 35-yard touch­down.

“Turnovers are a big key in any game and we cap­i­tal­ized on them,” John­son said.

Penal­ties plagued the Pan­thers all game, and the Tigers took ad­van­tage in the sec­ond half, scor­ing a pair of late touch­downs. Quar­ter­back Nate McCul­lough busted

loose on Ris­ing Sun’s fi­nal drive, com­plet­ing four straight passes, in­clud­ing a 6-yard scor­ing con­nec­tion with Dustin Flow­ers. McCul­lough went 11-of-14 for 128 yards over­all.

Ris­ing Sun head coach Richard Opp was glad to see his play­ers keep bat­tling de­spite their large deficit.

“It was a good, hard-fought game,” he said. “The kids played hard for the most part. We started out slow and didn’t get out of that hole.”

A fight erupted on the field be­tween a Ris­ing Sun player and a Per­ryville player on the en­su­ing kick­off. Both teams rushed onto the field to join the fra­cas before coaches and of­fi­cials could in­ter­vene. Ten­sions have re­mained high be­tween the two squads stem­ming back to events that oc­curred last sea­son when Ris­ing Sun won in a blowout. Less than three min­utes were left in the game, and the of­fi­cials de­cided to end the


“I don’t know why the kid grabbed the other kid, but 99 per­cent of the kids on both teams did things the right way,” John­son said. “The good thing is that Rich and I agreed that we wanted to shake hands and we want to show good sports­man­ship. I have a lot of re­spect for Rich and he does a great job with his kids. These kids all know each other, so I think that’s one rea­son why it’s so heated and so pas­sion­ate.”

The Pan­thers are back in the play­offs for the first time in three years, a fact not lost on the play­ers or coach­ing staff.

“Ev­ery­one now is 0-0 and we’ve been road war­riors all year with six away games,” John­son said. “The kids have just got to pre­pare and prac­tice like they want to be cham­pi­ons and lay it out on the line. It’s go­ing to be fun. I don’t know who we’re go­ing to be play­ing yet and right now it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter.”

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