By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Rob Perryman stood in the middle of the Boardman High football practice field on Tuesday when his teammates decided to try out his new nickname.
"We call him Shakespeare," one of his teammates yelled out. "He makes plays."
Perryman just shook his head and smiled.
"They came up with that yesterday," he said.
After missing last year with a knee injury, the Spartan senior made several big plays in Boardman's 29-23 defeat of Cleveland St. Ignatius, the defending Division I state champion.
He caught a 72-yard touchdown, returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, and added a fumble recovery and an interception on defense.
Oh, and he also helped shut down one of the best players in Ohio, Wildcat senior Tony Gonzalez, who's headed to Ohio State.
"Our coaches did a great job preparing us for their passing game," Perryman said. "Dan Ford's interception [for a touchdown] and my interception were mainly from us watching film.
"We all heard that our secondary was going to be the weak link. I think we played really well."
Perryman played junior varsity football as a sophomore and was expected to contend for playing time last year when he started having pain in his knee. He had the knee examined and doctors found dead bone inside his leg. They removed some bone and cartilage to get more blood flowing through his leg, but Perryman was sidelined the whole season.
He didn't start lifting again until November and didn't run until March.
He ran track last spring, but said he didn't feel back to normal until June.
"It was really frustrating," he said. "All my teammates were having fun playing and I was stuck on the sidelines on crutches."
After the long layoff, the Spartans didn't know what to expect.
"He was kind of a big question mark," Boardman coach Garry Smith said. "This is really his first year of varsity football and he's been a very, very pleasant surprise."
Smith taught Perryman in his honors English class and was impressed with him as a student. He's equally impressed with his play on the field.
"He's a big-time playmaker," Smith said.
Boardman lost several top players to graduation last year, including its all-time leading rusher, Evan Beard (now at the Naval Academy), three-sport standout Steve Vallos (Wake Forest) and big play wide receiver/defensive back Jay Upthegrove (Southern Illinois).
The Spartans had a lot of talent returning and were expected to contend for a playoff spot. But the win over Ignatius was a slight surprise.
"Aside from all the tiredness -- we were just so tired after the game -- we were overjoyed," Perryman said of the victory. "Words can't describe how it felt."
Boardman can't afford to dwell on its victory, however. The Spartans play host to Chaney on Friday night.
"They give us a completely different look," Perryman said. "With Ignatius, we were worried about their pass offense. Chaney has a good ground attack. It's going to be a challenge."