Ask any of the Perry football players and they will tell you that while they surely want to win the Cowbell Trophy and that Greene County remains a traditional rival, the school they consider their most bitter rival and most want to beat is ADM.
That goal was reached last Friday at Dewey Field as a fired-up Perry defense shut down a potent ADM offense to claim a 13-6 win in their Class 3A District 1 battle.
Perry held ADM to 120 yards below their average offensive output and, for the first time since a 28-0 win over Nevada on Oct. 9 of 2009, kept an opponent from scoring a touchdown of any kind.
Tiger senior quarterback Kolby Whisner entered the game second in 3A in passing yards but was held nearly 100 yards below his per game average, with the Bluejay secondary limiting dangerous receiver Tate Jensen to just 36 yards on two catches after he came into the contest with per game averages of six snags for 109 yards. The Perry defense was particularly stout on third down, allowing just two conversions to the Tigers on 13 third-down snaps.
"Our coaches came up with a great defensive plan and the kids went out, played hard and executed it," Perry head coach Jason Olejniczak said. "They did not get discouraged when ADM hit on some plays and held them out of the end zone when the field shrank."
Perry (2-6, 2-4) is finished with district play and will miss the playoffs, with ADM (4-4, 3-2) set to host Harlan (7-1, 5-0). Barring an upset, ADM will finish fourth in D1 and face a 180-mile one-way trip to square off with top-ranked Sioux City Heelan in the opening round of the playoffs Wednesday.
"I heard it all week from the kids," Olejniczak said. "They wanted this game badly, both to beat ADM and because of what it would likely mean. It is as fired up as I have seen us for quite some time."
ADM moved sharply down the field on their first possession and moved inside the Perry 10 when a Chase Carrick tackle for a loss of four yards forced the Tigers to settle for a Jake Hutzell 30-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The teams traded possessions, with Perry fumbling ADM’s first punt, giving the Tigers possession deep in Bluejay territory.
However, the Perry defense refused to yield, forcing a 26-yard Hutzell field goal that created a 6-0 lead for the guests.
Perry faced a 3rd-and-13 the next time they had the ball, but Will Whiton found Seth Stetzel for 17 yards to keep the drive alive. Two plays later Stetzel broke free off left tackle and outran the defense for a 60-yard touchdown with less than a minute to play in the first quarter. Ivan Garcia’s point-after kick gave Perry a 7-6 lead.
Garcia was kicking because Perry’s normal kicker, Cameron Martinez, is out of the country visiting family. That created a place-kicking competition during the week of practice, with Ivan Garcia earning the nod and making the most of his opportunity.
ADM returned the favor of fumbling away a punt in the second quarter, with Cavan Finn landing on the ball. Whiton hit Ben Daniels for 25 yards to the Tiger five-yard line, but the ADM defense stiffened, forcing Perry to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Garcia and a 10-6 lead.
The Tigers threatened to score with a minute left in the half, but the snap on an attempted 37-yard field goal shot through the grasp of holder Whisner, with Perry recovering. The Jays could not scrape a scoring drive together and entered the break with the 10-6 lead.
Garcia split the uprights on a 23-yard field goal for the only scoring of the third quarter, with Perry avoiding potential disaster by changing field position after being pinned at the two-yard line by a 52-yard rolling punt from Goeden.
Most of the second half was spent in similar fashion to the second quarter, with neither team able to sustain much offensive momentum. Jensen gave ADM a spark with a good punt return late in the fourth quarter, but after two first downs the Tigers were whistled for their second personal foul of the game, leaving Perry in seemingly good shape.
However, a questionable pass interference call was further compounded by an inexcusable unsportsmanlike penalty against the Jays — the seventh such flag of the season — giving ADM new life.
The Tigers moved inside the Perry 20, but Whisner was off target on passes into the end zone on both third and fourth down, with Perry then able to run out the clock to secure the win.
Whisner was 13-31-0 for 145 yards, with Goeden (6-58) catching swing passes out of the backfield his most potent target.
Goeden had 86 yards on 16 carries to lead the Tiger ground game, which totaled just 97yards.
Whiton was 9-16-0 for 111 yards in the air, with Daniels (5-74), Stetzel (1-17), Nic Wilhelmi (2-14) and Finn (1-6) catching his tosses. Finn was 0-of-2 on a pair of passing attempts.
Perry ran for 170 yards, with Stetzel (15-86) and Whiton (21-80) leading the way.
Michael Lansing’s 11 tackles led the Bluejay defense, with Stetzel and Wilhelmi — who had the only sack for either team — each making seven stops.
Perry will conclude their season by entertaining Saydel at Dewey Field tonight, and Olejniczak said there would still be much to play for.
"Obviously we want to win three in a row and want to send the seniors out with a win," he said. "More than that is setting the tone for next year. We will lose some key people but will have an awful lot coming back.
"I think we might be turning a corner in a way," he added. "This is the first time I have heard a junior class talk about how and when they will be lifting in the off season and what they are going to do to get ready for next year. We realize we let a few games slip away this year and I believe these kids are already determined not to let that happen next year."