The Perry football team is 1-5 overall and 0-4 in Class 3A District 1 play this year, and if any two words could sum up what has so far been a season of frustration "missed opportunities" would have to be high on the list.
Lewis Central (3-3, 3-0) handed Perry a 17-7 Homecoming loss at Dewey Field thanks in large measure to the Bluejays being unable to score after twice falling on Titan fumbles inside the 30-yard line in the first few minutes of play.
"We had an opportunity early in the game to seize the momentum and set the tone and needed to capitalize but we were not able to," Perry head coach Jason Olejniczak said. "You have to cash it in when you get the ball inside the 30, period. No excuses.
"There are times when we do things well offensively, but too often we are not making plays when we need to," he added. "We all take turns at making mistakes — all 11 guys do — but there are times when you just have to be consistent and make something happen and we have not been anywhere near consistent enough in doing that."
Perry caught a huge break on the opening kickoff when the ball deflected off a Lewis Central player and was recovered by Bluejay junior Blake Jans at the Titan 26.
Quarterback Will Whiton scrambled down to the 2-yard line, but the play was erased by a penalty and Perry was held on fourth down, turning the ball over.
The Titans had made little headway when Bluejay senior Seth Stetzel nailed running back Ryan Main on an option play and jarred the ball loose, with linebacker Michael Lansing falling on the pigskin just inside the 30.
Unfortunately Perry could do nothing with the ball and turned the ball over on downs at the Titan 24 after gaining five yards on four plays.
Lewis Central promptly moved the ball down the grid before stalling at the Perry eight-yard line when Stetzel batted away an Austin Simmons pass in the end zone on third down. Sophomore Caleb Shudak put the guests in front, 3-0, with a 25-yard field goal on the next play.
Fifteen seconds later the score was 7-3 thanks to Whiton, who took the ensuing kickoff at his own five-yard line, cut left across the grain, then back to the right and sped away from the pursuit for a 95-yard touchdown. Martinez booted the extra-point, and Perry had a lead that would stand until just past the mid-point of the third quarter.
The Perry defense held on the next possession, but Luke Sutherland pinned the Jays with a 52-yard punt to the two-yard line that Whiton brought out to the 14. A 26-yard run from Whiton highlighted Perry’s drive after the punt, with the hosts moving past midfield before Stetzel was stripped off the ball at the Titan 33.
Lewis Central moved sharply downfield and earned a first-and-goal at the Perry eight-yard line, but Bluejay linebacker Hunter Brobst sacked Simmons back to the 15, from where Shudak was wide right on a 32-yard field goal attempt.
The guests grabbed a 10-7 lead with 4:52 to play in the third quarter when Simmons hit Lincoln Rodenburg with a 15-yard fade pass in the corner of the end zone.
Perry went nowhere on offense, and Shudak’s 54-yard field goal try was short, with the ball landing on the back line of the end zone, the miss helping keep Perry within three points at the start of the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately the Bluejay offense was simply unable to find any kind of rhythm and the Titans were able to maintain control of the ball for most of the fourth quarter, scoring on a six-yard pass from Simmons to Jake Rodgers with 6:36 remaining to cap the scoring.
Unofficially the Titans ran 68 offensive plays to just 39 for Perry.
"I thought our first half was maybe, along with the first half at Glenwood, the best defense we have played all year," Olejniczak said. "You have to give them credit for being able to control so much of the clock in the second half. They were a big, physical team but we stayed with them until we just wore out, which happens when the other guy is running almost twice as many plays as you are."
Whiton was 6-14-0 for 53 yards in the air, with Nic Wilhelmi catching two passes for 14 yards, Stetzel two for 11 yards, Cody Chance one for five yards and Ben Daniels one for 23 yards.
Whiton added 81 yards rushing on 15 carries and Stetzel 21 yards on eight rushes for the hosts.
Simmons finished 11-22-0 for 140 yards and two scores through the air and carried 22 times for 81 yards while Main was the only other Titan to run the ball, gaining 112 yards on 24 rushes.
Rodenburg (3-49, 1 TD), Rodgers (3-48, 1 TD), Kyle Larson (4-35) and Conner Hanafan (1-8) caught passes for the Titans.
Wilhelmi had 15 tackles for the Bluejays and Lansing 14, with Jans adding 11 stops.
Perry visits Atlantic tonight, where the Jays will try to avenge a 41-6 to the Trojans last season.