Wilmington had no answer for powerful Perry Traditional Academy.
By BILL ALBRIGHT
PITTSBURGH -- They were big, strong, quick and talented.
That is probably the best description of the Perry Traditional Academy football team that ended Wilmington High's season with a 35-7 win in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs Saturday at Cupples Stadium.
Perry (12-0) will return home to Cupples Stadium next Saturday to face Bradford in the next round of the PIAA playoffs, while Wilmington ends up its fine season at 10-2.
"There is no doubt about it, they are an excellent football team," praised Wilmington coach Terry Verrelli. "They got up on us early on the some mistakes, but in the end, I don't think it would have made any difference. They were just too powerful for us."
Early errors: The mistakes Verrelli alluded to made their appearance in the first eight minutes of the game.
A low snap from center and a 3-yard punt deep in Wilmington territory resulted in a 34-yard return by Paul Favers for the game's first score. Then, on the Greyhounds' next possession, Eric Wicks picked off his first of three interceptions, and five plays later, quarterback Scott Knapp tossed the first of four touchdown passes, a 15-yard effort to Gary Lee with 4:46 left in the opening period.
After giving up the two scores, the Greyhounds did come back to put together a strong nine-play, 57-yard drive that was culminated by a 9-yard sprint to the end zone by tailback Brandon Whiting.
No closer: With the Whiting score, Wilmington had bounced back to cut the Perry lead to 14-7 at the first turn, but that is as close as it got when the Commodores tacked on scores in each of the second, third and fourth periods to set the final.
As the game wore on, it became more and more obvious that the Commodores were controlling the line of scrimmage from both sides of the ball, and Verrelli agreed that was a major factor in the final outcome of the game.
"They controlled the line of scrimmage, and really that is where the game is [won and lost] and that is a tribute to them," said Verrelli. "They are stronger than they look on film. The big thing in this game was definitely the line play."
Stellar play: A quick look at some numbers indicates that the Greyhounds were attacked by a trio of outstanding athletes who turned in stellar performances. In addition to Wicks' three interceptions, quarterback Knapp completed five-of-10 passes for 106 yards and four scores to four different receivers, while running back Kelvin Drewery completed the well-balanced Perry offensive attack with 123 yards on 28 carries.
"They are good athletes," said Verrelli of Knapp, Wicks and Drewery. "When you start throwing the ball in the air and taking those chances, those things [interceptions] can happen."
With the trio of Wicks, Drewery and Knapp taking care of Perry's offense and defense, Verrelli was quick to point out that his club simply never got any type of running game going. For a team that had rolled up more than 300 yards of total offense numerous times during the season, the Greyhounds were held to just 34 yards rushing and 31 more through the air.
Stymied on ground: "We just never got a running game going," said Verrelli. "The kids wanted to run this pass and that pass, but I told them that if you don't get the running game going, you can't win the game passing. We tried to get things organized with the running game a little bit at halftime, but when we came out, we just didn't get it done."
If the game wasn't over at the intermission with the Wilmington offense almost nonexistent throughout, the Commodores took care of that in the third period.
Brandon Pezzelle got behind the Greyhounds' secondary, and Knapp hit him with a 50-yard scoring aerial before Wicks changed from the defensive side to offense. And Knapp hit him with a 45-yard scoring strike to set the final.
"We weren't surprised by their long passes," said Verrelli. "That is part of their game and we just got beat a couple of times. It was very difficult to block them and equally difficult to try and stop their running game. That is what you need to win and that is what they had today."