Panthers defense shines in comeback win
NORTH EAST — It took some time, but the Perryville Panthers made Rising Sun feel like home.
After falling behind early, Perr yville scored 21 unanswered points and hung on for a 21-19 nonconference football win over Largo on Friday night.
Panther fans happily made the trip north through the county to watch their team’s comeback. Perryville (2-0) borrowed Rising Sun’s field while construction continues on its new turf field.
While the Panthers eventually wore the oppopsition down with a pesky run game, the defense was the real star. Outside of two big scoring plays, Largo (1-1) amassed just 51 yards of offense.
“When they were younger, they might have said, ‘oh no, this is not our day’ but tonight they didn’t panic and they didn’t blink,” Panthers head coach Chris Johnson said. “They gave up two big plays, but they knew they could get back into it. They just kept fighting.”
Perryville found itself in a hole on the very first play of the game when Kaleb Washington picked off quarterback Dayvon Montz’s pass and ran it back 46 yards for a touchdown.
The Lions added to their lead late in the first quarter when fullback Jayvon Johnson barreled his way up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown. After a failed extra point, Largo held a 13-0 advantage.
The Panthers answered back with a 14-play, 64-yard drive that saw them convert twice on third down and once on a fake punt. Montz punched it in from the 1-yard line, and kicker Bailey Armour added the extra point to make it a 13-7 game.
Perryville’s Matt Woods snagged an interception on Largo’s next drive, but the score stayed 13-7 at halftime.
The Lions quickly tired in the second half, and several players suffered cramps. Perryville took full advantage, scoring on two consecutive drives for a lead it would not relinquish.
Facing second-and-long from the Panther 25, running back Caleb Robinson found a crease at the line of scrimmage and went off to the races for a 75-yard touchdown.
“To give Caleb credit, they had him tackled once or twice but he was able to break free and still go the distance,” Johnson said. “That really lifted us and after that I think we really got the momentum.”
Robinson (13 carries, 139 yards, one touchdown) and Timmy Clark (10 carries, 88 yards, one touchdown) gobbled up more yardage on the next drive, and Clark scored on a 10-yard sprint down the left side. He followed that with another run into the end zone for a 2-point conversion, as the Panthers took a 21-13 lead with 11:40 left in the game.
Clark was quick to share credit of his score after the game.
“The only thing on my mind was getting in the end zone,” Clark said. “I just trusted in my left side and trusted in my left tackle John Perkins all game. Shout out to him — he’s dealing with a little injury right now, but he’ll be alright.”
Largo had one last trick up its sleeve, as quarterback Jermaine Flowers surprised the defense with a play-action, 61-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Etheridge. It was his first completion of the game. The Lions tried for the tie, but got stuffed just shy of the goal line on their 2-point attempt.
“I’ve got to evaluate the film and see exactly what went wrong,” Largo head coach Derron Thomas said of his players’ struggles in the second half. “I think our kids played hard, but I’m not sure we played right as far as our execution. It seemed like conditioning became a factor.”
Perryville drained five minutes off the clock before turning the ball over on downs, and then the defense survived a pass interference call (both teams committed more than 80 yards worth of penalties in the game) and forced a turnover-on-downs of its own with 30 seconds left to seal the win.
Johnson said the key was containing the speed of Flowers, whom the Panthers sacked twice and held to just 26 yards.
“They’ve got an incredibly athletic quarterback and they’ve got a back that can scoot,” Johnson said. “We scouted them about as well as we could scout somebody, and our goal was to keep them inside. We talked to our [defensive] ends — they can’t dip in and they can’t run past the quarterback either. Those are the two things we addressed and the kids played their hearts out. I’m just really proud to be called their head coach tonight.”
While Johnson was happy to see his players earn a victory at “home,” he’s looking forward to more wins on Perryville’s new turf. The field should be finished in time for the Susquehanna Bowl next Friday against arch-rival Havre de Grace.
“We’ve got to be prepared wherever we play and it’s unfortunate we can’t play at home yet,” he said. “I can’t complain, though, because we’re going have a really nice turf field, and I really thank the county for that. I just hope and pray our field is ready next Friday when we play Havre de Grace. We’ll wait and see how that goes.”
Perryville senior running back Caleb Robinson rushes with the football during his team’s 21-19 come-from-behind non-conference victory over Largo at Rising Sun High on Friday. With the win, the Panthers start the season 2-0.