PERRY TOWNSHIP — Lehman Catholic continues to haunt Lima Perry.
For the second straight season, the Cavaliers put a huge damper on the Commodores’ hopes of a Northwest Central Conference crown and a possible playoff berth after Lehman edged Perry 21-14 on Friday night.
With one game left in the regular season, Perry drops to 6-3 overall and 4-2. Lehman improves to 6-3 and 5-1 in the conference, tied atop the league with Riverside. The Cavaliers and Pirates will face off with the NWCC title on the line on Thursday at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
The victory clinched a playoff berth for Lehman in Division VII, Region 28.
“That was a great game, and that is what high school football is supposed to be about,” Lehman coach Dick Roll said. “They came and controlled us early, but our kids stepped up and made some plays. We had that interception and that was huge.”
Perry coach Dan Baker said a couple of things didn’t break the team’s way.
“The defense played well all night, and so did the offense,” Baker said. “We were able to drive the ball, but we made mistakes here and there. At the end of the day, you have to finish the drives. They did a little better job than we did tonight.”
With both teams averaging around 40 points a contest, most expected a shootout. Instead, fans got a defensive struggle.
Both defenses shined throughout the game. In the end, it was Lehman that produced two second-half touchdowns to eclipse the Commodores and rally from a 14-7 second-half deficit.
A turnover led to Lehman tying the score late in the third quarter, and then senior quarterback Elliott Gilardi, who had been held in check for most of the night, broke off a 60-yard run with 5:14 left in the game to give Lehman the go-ahead touchdown.
“You have to make a stand defensively after the turnover,” Baker said. “Offensively you don’t hope to make those interceptions, and that was (Louis Hoersten’s) first interception of the season. Not the greatest time for it, but when you are eight games into the season, you can’t be too upset.”
Gilardi completed 12-of-26 passes for 128 yards and ran for 77 yards on 18 carries. Logan Bunker ran for 37 yards and two touchdowns on six carries, while Tyler Sollman gained 47 yards on 11 carries and Drew Barhorst rushed for 28 yards on seven carries. Bradly Haynes had three receptions for 38 yards and Brendan O’Leary had three catches for 35 yards.
A big 63-yard kickoff return by Nylan Canon on the ensuing kickoff gave Perry one last chance to tie the score, but the Cavalier defense stood tall and sunk the Commodores’ chances of tying the game.
Cannon was the main force in the Commodores’ offense. The Perry running back rushed for 90 yards on 14 carries and one touchdown, including a scintillating 63-yard run for the second score.
Cannon, who had six catches for 101 yards, set up the Commodores’ first score when he made a big 40-yard grab to set up the first touchdown.
Perry broke through first midway through the second quarter, when the Commodores manufactured a 76-yard drive that was capped off by Hoersten hitting Chazz Jackson in the flats. Jackson bullied and bulldozed his way into the end zone. After the successful extra point, Perry led 7-0 at the 7:20 mark of the second quarter.
Despite having excellent field position throughout the first half, the Commodore defense bent but did not break and produced several key fourth down stops deep in its territory to turn back the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers did finally break through when Bunker plunged in from 1 yard out for pay dirt. After successfully kicking the extra point, the score was tied 7-7 with 2:22 left in the first half.