Pan­thers back in the play­offs, pre­pare to face old fa­mil­iar foe

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

Only two mem­bers of the cur­rent Per­ryville foot­ball team played at the var­sity level the last time the high school com­peted in the post­sea­son.

For Pan­thers se­nior team­mates Zac Zacer­ous and Cullen McCoy, the hope this year is that their play­off jour­ney has a bet­ter re­sult than their pre­vi­ous post­sea­son ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Pan­thers (5-5) won three con­sec­u­tive reg­u­larsea­son con­tests to punch their ticket to the 1A East Re­gion play­offs, where they will travel tonight to face third-seeded Cam­bridgeSD (7-3). It will mark the first time both schools have faced off since the Vik­ings topped Per­ryville, 42-0, in the 2013 re­gion final—the last of three con­sec­u­tive play­off show­downs be­tween the two pro­grams.

“I just told [my play­ers] that we need to ... just go and play a good foot­ball game. Go and ex­e­cute. Ev­ery team is dif­fer­ent, ev­ery team has a dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity,” said Per­ryville coach Chris John­son, whose team is a No. 3 seed, com­pared to 2013, when it en­tered as a sec­ond seed. “This one is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent in the fact that we’re play­ing an un­fa­mil­iar op­po­nent. The one thing I will say is it’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent [than 2013]. The last three weeks we knew we had to win, so ev­ery game kind of had those play­off im­pli­ca­tions on it.”

With such a large gap be­tween post­sea­son ap­pear­ances, John­son com­pared his cur­rent squad to the 2011 Per­ryville team, which made the play­offs for the time time since 2004 and ad­vanced to the state cham­pi­onship game.

“In 2011, those guys had never been to the play­offs and it didn’t af­fect them at all. They had con­fi­dence in them­selves and that’s re­ally what it comes down to,” John­son said. “If you get into the play­offs and you be­lieve in your­self and you know what you’re ca­pa­ble of, you just go out there and do it. Our kids right now should feel very con­fi­dent about them­selves.

“I just want the kids to come down there and play a con­fi­dent foot­ball game and I think we have a good chance.”

Of­fen­sively, the Pan­thers will look to main­tain the mo­men­tum of the past three weeks when they scored 40.6 points per game and outscored their op­po­nents 122-38.

Zacer­ous, a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor on the of­fen­sive side of the ball at full­back, will be counted on to move the chains and put points on the board.

“The one thing about Zac is you’re go­ing to get 100 per­cent no mat­ter what,” John­son said. “Both on of­fense and de­fense, he’s go­ing to give you ev­ery ounce of en­ergy he has. Right now, he’s our bell cow. He’s the one who will get the ma­jor­ity of the car­ries when we run the foot­ball. He’s also catch­ing the ball out of the back­field now so he’s a weapon there.

“He’s some­body that can wear down an op­pos­ing team’s de­fense,” the coach added. “He’s not some­body that’s go­ing to go down with one per­son, and if you try to arm tackle him, he’s just go­ing to run through it. He’s a strong kid.”

De­fen­sively, the Pan­thers will have their hands full try­ing to con­tain the Vik­ings’ of­fense.

“They have a lot of speed,” John­son said of tonight’s op­po­nent, which features a pair of tal­ented run­ning backs. “We’re go­ing to have make sure we con­tain those two. They have a quar­ter­back who throws a good deep ball—they like the big play—so we’ve been work­ing with our sec­ondary this week on work­ing on the long balls and try­ing to take that away. They’ve been able to score a lot of points on of­fense so we’re go­ing to have to play very good de­fense and keep them un­der wraps.”

A win for Per­ryville will set up a po­ten­tial re­match with top-seeded Bo Manor, the team’s big­gest Ce­cil County ri­val.

“We can only con­trol what we can con­trol but the kids re­ally want to play Bo. [Ea­gles coach] Joe [Graf] and I talked about how cool it would be to have an all-Ce­cil County re­gion cham­pi­onship game,” John­son said. “I think a Round Two would be just a great game on both sides of the ball and I think it’s what fans would want to see.”

Fol­low Jor­dan Schatz on Twit­ter: @Jor­dan_Whig Per­ryville se­nior Do­minic Gugliotta throws a pass against Elk­ton ear­lier this sea­son. The Pan­thers are set to play host Cam­bridge-SD tonight in the 1A East Re­gion semi­fi­nals.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

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