ATLANTIC — Perry scored six of their seven touchdowns from 25 yards or further away to stampede past Atlantic, 48-27, in their Class 3A District 1 meeting last Friday.
"Offensively I thought we played very well," Perry head coach Jason Olejniczak said. "Our offensive line play was just tremendous. They gave Will (Whiton) and Cavan (Finn) time to throw and opened huge holes in the running game."
Whiton had a superlative outing. The junior was 6-9-0 for 154 yards and three touchdowns passing while adding 145 yards and two TDs on 14 rushes and catching one pass for 14 yards. To round out his effort he fell on a fumble and picked off two first-quarter passes, returning the second theft 25 yards for a score.
"Will just had one of those games he is capable of," Olejniczak said. "We had several guys play well. I thought (Seth) Stetzel had a good game running the ball. He finally had some room to run (the senior finished with a career-high 105 yards on 16 carries) and ran hard, like he always does."
Ben Daniels announced his presence from the first moments of the game by running the opening kickoff back 50 yards to give Perry (2-5, 1-4) good field position. The Bluejays faced a fourth-and-nine at the 29-yard line, but Daniels broke into the open and pulled in a TD strike from Whiton (who ran in the conversion) for an 8-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.
Whiton picked off a Joey Walker pass at the Atlantic 43 to snuff the first Trojan drive, but Perry stalled at the 5-yard line and came up empty when Cameron Martinez was wide right on a short field goal attempt.
Atlantic (1-6, 0-4) ran two plays before Whiton stepped in front of a Walker pass on third down and sprinted 25 yards into the end zone. Whiton hit Stetzel with the conversion pass and Perry lead, 16-0, with 5:15 to play in the first quarter.
The Trojans followed by mounting their best drive of the night, an impressive ground assault that gained big chunks on each run and churned to the 1-yard line, where a questionable spot granted a first down after a Walker sneak on fourth-and-two from the 3-yard line.
Walker scored on the next snap, with Matt Smith’s PAT boot on the last play of the quarter putting the score at 16-7.
Whiton responded on the next offensive play, dashing into the open field on a designed run. He cut back against the grain, dodging two tacklers and racing 63 yards for a score. Martinez booted the PAT for a 23-7 lead.
Atlantic moved downfield again, but was turned away on downs at the Perry 11. Three plays later Whiton hit a streaking Daniels in stride down the middle of the field for a 74-yard TD that gave Perry a 29-7 advantage after one half of play.
Trojan back Jacob Dvorak missed the first half for disciplinary reasons but made the most of his first carry, breaking through a missed tackle and then showing great speed by reaching the end zone just ahead of a pursuing Whiton for an 80-yard score to trim the margin to 29-14 on the first play of the second half.
Perry answered by moving smartly down the grid, largely on the back of physical runs from Stetzel. Whiton hit Keegan Wolfe with a seven-yard TD to cap the drive and push Perry into a 35-14 lead. The catch was the first for Wolfe since the junior scored the first touchdown of the season for Perry with a 37-yard snag against Greene County.
The gap widened to 41-14 after Whiton dashed 26 yards for a TD early in the fourth quarter, with a Daniels interception setting up a 68-yard TD run from Nic Wilhelmi that moved the score to 48-14 after a Martinez PAT kick.
Perry began to field their junior varsity players with seven minutes remaining, but Atlantic went with their starters for almost the entire way, allowing the Trojans to score on a 10-yard Walker run and a three-yard Logan Steffens run with 37 seconds to play.
"With the exception of the long run (from Dvorak) and the one drive at the end of the first quarter I thought our defense played very well," Olejniczak said. "I felt much better about how we played defensively after I saw the film, because on the field Friday I didn’t think we were playing as well as we really were."
Perry will need another stout effort tonight as they host pass-happy ADM at Dewey Field (see preview, page 10). Tiger quarterback Kolby Whisner is second in Class 3A with 1,684 yards through the air.
"They are as good on offense as anyone we have seen and they pass block very well," Olejniczak said. "We are going to have to tackle well and not give up any big plays for the entire game."
Blake Jans led the Bluejay defense with 17 total tackles, with Michael Lansing in on 15 stops and Wilhelmi in on 14 denials. Jorge Soto had a sack for the Jays, with Hunter Brobst and Chase Carrick each had a tackle for negative yardage.
Finn was 1-3-0 for 14 yards passing for Perry, with Cody Chance grabbing a pass for 15 yards while Jans ran twice for two yards to cap Perry’s offensive numbers.