Panthers football team falls to Vikings in playoff opener
— Perryville head coach Chris Johnson thought his team had a good chance to win the battle in the trenches during its 1A East Region semifinals matchup against host Cambridge-South Dorchester.
That was not the case as the Panthers were unable to control the ground game and struggled to run the ball on offense, while on defense, they allowed the Vikings to rush for 213 yards in a 37-7 seasonending defeat on Friday.
“I think they won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball tonight, and I was actually very surprised to be honest with you. I thought we would dominate the line of scrimmage, and we just could not get anything going running the football,” Johnson said. “We could not get [fullback] Zac [Zacerous] going. Those guys diving on the ground. You can prepare for it, but until you see it live, you don’t know how to prepare.”
The Panthers had an inauspicious start to the game as Cambridge-SD executed an onside kick to begin play. Two plays later, Tajh Molock took a handoff 38 yards for a Vikings touchdown, before Tre’ Lake scored on a 2-point conversion to make it 8-0 just 56 seconds into the contest.
Cambridge-SD added to its lead in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns runs by Lake, who scored from nine yards out and one yard out, respectively, to place Perryville in a 22-0 hole late in the second quarter.
Molock scored his second touchdown of the game just 1:48 into the second half with a 28-yard run to make it 29-0. The Vikings then recored their final touchdown of the game when Tyler Harding connected with Jacob Morris for a 20-yard score. Lake then rumbled into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
Molock finished with 121 yards rushing on six carries, while Lake added 50 yards on the ground for the Vikings, who found running room against the Panthers’ 5-3 defense.
“Cambridge tonight was the better football team. We knew they had speed, and they did. They had speed. We’ve been very good at setting the edge all year long, and not letting people outside of us,” Johnson said. “The problem was we weren’t letting him outside. He was coming up off tackle, turning right in the alley. In the 5-3, our backers should be right there, and they weren’t there all night.”
Perryville found the board late in the fourth quarter when Dom Gugliotta connected with DJ Anderson for a 30-yard touchdown.
The loss ends the season for the Panthers (5-6), but Johnson is proud of the way his team battled back from a 2-5 start, including three-straight season-opening defeats, to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“I thought we had the potential. You don’t know about potential until you get there,” Johnson said. “What I’m proud about this team is after we lost the heartbreaker to Havre de Grace [in Week 3], we lost the heartbreaker to Bo [Manor in Week 6] and we got killed by Elkton [in Week 7], a lot of teams would have packed it in at that point, but we came back with a vengeance.”