SIDNEY — Leading up to the big Northwest Central Conference showdown with Lehman Catholic on Friday, Perry had done a lot of things right to set up the battle of the conference unbeatens.
Against the Cavaliers, everything seemed to go wrong, and the Commodores fell 49-13.
With the win, Lehman, now 7-1 and 6-0 in the NWCC, garnered a share of the conference title and put itself in position to win the crown outright with a win against Riverside next week.
Perry falls to 5-4 on the season and 5-1 in conference action.
Perry coach Luke Taviano, who did not want to take anything away from Lehman’s solid effort, said most of his team’s mistakes were self-inflicted.
“Any person who truly knows football can see that that football team is not much better than us,” Taviano said. “We defeated ourselves most of the night by making stupid mistakes and not playing fundamentally sound football. We missed a lot of tackles and blew a lot of blocking assignments.”
Lehman quarterback Elliott Gilardi did most of the damage for Lehman in the first half with his arm and legs to give the Cavs a big first-half lead. The Lehman signal-caller finished with 100 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns and passed for two more scores.
Lehman tailback Owen Smith helped polish off Perry in the second half. After rushing for 49 yards in the first half, the senior tailback finished with 214 yards and two touchdowns. Smith had runs of 75 and 15 yards for pay dirt.
For Perry, Shane Overly rushed for 155 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown.
An early indicator it was not going to bode well for Perry came on its first two possessions of the game. The Commodores moved into the red zone twice and came away with zero points.
“That was huge,” Taviano said. “We gave up 21 points, and we could have easily been closer in the game at halftime. We had offensive hiccups, and we did things we had not done all year long. When that happened, our boys did not know how to respond.
“Those things happened, and I’m surprised it didn’t happen before week nine. But the hiccups happened today, and that is the way football works sometimes.”
Lehman took command of the game in the later stages of the first half when it reeled off three unanswered touchdowns in the final 10 minutes of a second stanza that began with a turnover and ended with Perry down 28-7.
Perry tied the game at 7-7 at the 11:21 mark of the second quarter when Commodore quarterback Louis Hoersten snuck one in from the 1 to cap off a short five-play, 30-yard drive. Perry had recovered a fumble that led to the short field.
Undaunted, Lehman responded with a meticulous march down the field that saw the Cavs drive nine plays for 65 yards, including Gilardi’s 18-yard touchdown pass to R.J. Bertini. After the extra point, Lehman led 14-7 with 7:09 left in the half.
It didn’t take long for the Cavs to celebrate their third touchdown of the night after Perry fumbled on its possession and Lehman took over at the Perry 42. Five plays later, Gilardi finished off a 21-yard scamper for a Cavalier touchdown. After the extra point, the Lehman owned a 21-7 lead.
The lead ballooned to 28-7 when Perry, looking to punt at its own 40, had a bad snap. Despite a valiant effort from punter Chazz Jackson, the ball traveled 20 yards, and Lehman had excellent field position at its own 40. Sixty yards and six plays later, Lehman was up 28-7 when Gilardi zig-zagged his way 23 yards for the touchdown and the Cavs converted the extra point.
Any chance of a miracle comeback in the final two quarters was quickly quelled when Lehman scored on its first two possessions of the second half.
Todd Acker | AIM Media Midwest
Steve Egbert | Sidney Daily News
Jose Nogueras is the sports editor of the Lima News. Reach Nogueras at 567-242-0478 or on Twitter at @JoseNogueras1.