It took Perkins over two and a half quarters to establish its dominance Friday night, at least on the scoreboard, in its regional quarterfinal matchup at Firelands Regional Medical Center.
Once the Pirates did, though, they looked every bit as advertised in rolling to a 35-11 win over Napoleon. The victory moves Perkins into the semifinal round of Division III Region 8, facing fellow Sandusky Bay Conference member Clyde, a big winner over Medina Buckeye. The Pirates handed Clyde its lone loss on the season in rolling to an undefeated regular season and its second consecutive SBC championship.
Against the Wildcats, it took a lightning bolt strike from Dale Irby in the third quarter to provide a second half spark, igniting the Pirates to three unanswered touchdowns and the convincing win. The loss was the fifth road loss of the year for the Wildcats, who won their four home games during the regular season.
“Each game our kids have been getting better,” said Perkins coach Jason Ziegler. “They’ve been doing a good job of working at it. Tonight I am a little disappointed in the turnovers and penalties, and we have to correct that. Other than that I am really proud of how the kids played.”
The Pirates (11-0) put up some big numbers in the statistical column in the first half, but could only manage a 14-3 halftime lead because of two costly turnovers.
After trading punts to start the second half, Napoleon (6-5), one of three teams in the region to reach the playoffs with four losses, put together its best drive of the night to narrow the gap to 14-11. A five and a half minute drive that went 53 yards in 10 plays pulled the Wildcats right back in it, but Irby took a direct snap on the first play of Perkins next possession and bolted 57 yards for a touchdown. He broke several tackles on his jaunt, gaining separation from the last few pursuers before reaching the endzone.
The run ignited the partisan crowd and the Pirate sideline, and the defense did the rest to secure the win. Irby came into the game with almost 1,200 yards in the regular season and finished the night with 231 yards on 16 carries with three scores. He also added 83 yards on four receptions and had two interceptions on defense on the first half. Matt Schweinfurth also picked off Napoleon quarterback Blake Dunbar late in the game to set up Jeremy Miller’s one yard touchdown run, giving the Pirates three picks on the night. Dunbar had only been intercepted six times all year coming in.
“You’ve got to tip your cap to (Irby),” said Napoleon coach Tory Strock. “He’s as advertised. This may sound crazy, because I know the score is what it is, but we played well enough to win in some areas tonight. The difference is they had Dale Irby, and that’s not to take anything away from their other guys.
“They are very well-coached and they play well as a team. You take those things and throw in a special athlete like Irby and it’s an element, when you have it, you’re thankful for it, and when you don’t you just tip your cap to him. A smart coach is going to get the ball to the playmakers and Sandusky Perkins is an outstanding football team. Their record speaks for itself.”
The Pirates squandered several opportunities in the first half to blow the game open, losing two fumbles in the red zone to stop scoring drives. Perkins outgained the Wildcats 294-116 in total yardage, yet led by just 11 points at the half. Perkins finished with 468 total yards, including 359 on the ground and 109 through the air. Napoleon gained 159 yards rushing and 88 passing (247 total), well below the 333 yards of offense they averaged during the season.
"Our defense has been the heart and soul of our football team for years,” Ziegler said. “Our defensive coaches do a fantastic job. Napoleon is as good an offense as we’ve seen going in, but our kids rose to the challenge defensively. Our four guys controlled the line of scrimmage up front and that’s where it was won tonight for us.”
Irby gained 133 yards in the first two quarters, and got the Pirates on the board after trailing 3-0 on a 24 yard jaunt, scoring on a counter reverse up the middle of the field at the 3:28 mark of the first quarter.
John Workman scored the other Perkins touchdown on a 1-yard run, capping a 5-play 73-yard drive with 2:02 in left in the second quarter. Irby’s final TD came with 8:24 to play, a 4-yarder in which he fought his way in for the score. Matt Cremean’s fourth of five extra points gave the Pirates some breathing room at 28-11.
Now it’s time to get ready for the Fliers as the Pirates play Friday at a site to be determined.
“Clyde is another physical football team,” Ziegler said. “We know them and they know us. It’s going to be a heavyweight fight, it’s going to be a slobber-knocker as a lot of people would say. We’re going to enjoy this one tonight and we’ll be ready to play.”