PERRY TWP. On Wednesday afternoon, two days before his team put together the best performance of its season (so far), Perry High football coach Keith Wakefield blew a fuse.
“I do that sometimes,” he said.
He forced the Panthers to play a (brief) full-go scrimmage during practice, sending a message that Friday’s opponent, Lake, was going to hit them in the mouth — and they’d better be ready to do the same.
“Lake was the most physical team we had seen, in terms of running the ball at you and stuff like that, and I was concerned about that,” Wakefield said. “We hadn’t been real physical at times.”
That wasn’t a problem against the Blue Streaks. The Panthers put together a 15-play scoring drive on their opening possession and dominated both sides of the ball, routing Lake 35-0 to end a three-game losing streak to the Streaks and put them in position to win their second straight Federal League title.
“That looked like a Perry football team tonight,” Wakefield said.
Tevion Cleveland ran 18 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns, and Malachi Strickland added 99 yards on 24 carries with two TDs for the Panthers (6-2, 3-1), who are a half-game behind McKinley in the conference standings and finish the season with road games against the Bulldogs and GlenOak.
Quarterback Max Baker threw for 34 yards and ran for 73 as Perry rolled up a 382-77 advantage on the ground and 416-115 edge in total yards. Perry’s offensive line of Ryan Jackson, Josh Branch, Evan Douglass, Matt Carrick and Dylan Casler, along with tight ends Zach Blackiston and Jaret Holzopfel, looked like the 1990s Cowboys up front, as Perry’s backs typically didn’t get touched until they reached the second level of Lake’s defense.
“I think everyone just came here with the right attitude,” said Carrick, a Michigan State recruit. “Everyone was ready to go. We just wanted to give these guys payback after the last three years. We didn’t want what happened last year, when we had a really good season and still lost to these guys.”
Lake managed just 34 yards in the first half, falling behind 28-0, and looked nothing like the team that took McKinley to two overtimes two weeks ago. The margin of victory was especially stunning since the Blue Streaks didn’t commit a turnover and were penalized just once.
“They’re pretty balanced, which makes them traditionally tough to defend because they’re two-dimensional, but we took away their run, which really helped us,” Wakefield said. “I only blitzed one time tonight. We played base defense the whole time.”
Cameron Martin ran eight times for 46 yards for the Streaks (5-3, 1-3), who are still very much in the playoff hunt with games against GlenOak and Green remaining. Quarterback Owen Goodheart was 7 of 17 for 38 yards but was hurt by at least four drops.
“That was not Blue Streak football,” Lake coach Dan DeGeorge said. “That’s not how we play the game, and that’s on me. We did not play like we should have tonight, and it will not happen again.
“Credit to Perry. They came to play, they were more physical than us, they were tougher than us and they outcoached us tonight.”
Perry, which has won four straight, tied a season-high in points and posted its first shutout of the season a week after giving up 30 points to Green. It was the type of performance that will raise eyebrows across Stark County — and raise expectations across Perry Township.
“We just need to continue playing like this, honestly,” Carrick said. “If we continue like this, we can beat anybody. And if we don’t, we’ll lose our last two games."
Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @jscalzoREP