The Perry Traditional Academy football team fell to McDowell High School in a 61-14 rout in last Friday's PIAA Class AAAA subregional, where the Commodores were dominated at Fairfield High School in Erie County.
Coach Bill Gallagher said his team was "out-physicaled," to describe the challenges that his Commodores (8-3) endured.
"They were bigger and stronger," he said. "We just couldn't compare to their numbers. We were outmanned and couldn't do the things that we wanted to against them. They were just the better team."
The fact that McDowell (6-5) accumulated 446 yards on the ground against a Perry defense that had to replace some injured players, including seniors Daron Clark and Robert Willie, who, according to Gallagher, have been huge contributors all year.
"The hits that we took due to injury was something that really killed us," Gallagher said. "Good thing we had kids like [senior] Darius Barnes step up and play a great game. But guys like Robert and Daron had been carrying us all year. Losing them really hurt."
Senior quarterback Ahmed Turner thought that the team's inexperience at defending McDowell's potent option offense caught his Commodores "slightly off guard."
"Before this game we hadn't seen the option," Turner said. "They were effective with that early and often, which was very hard for us to stop."
In addition to McDowell quarterback Jake Tarasovitch's two touchdown passes, he rushed for a game-high 144 yards and a score on the ground.
Running back James Conner, a Pitt recruit, chipped in with 130 rushing yards for the Trojans.
"We really could have used some better tackling," Perry senior linebacker Curtis Edmonds said. "They were a good strong team and it was unfortunate that we just were not able to perform better."
Edmonds, who also plays running back and was a 1,000-yard rusher this season, like the rest of the Commodores offense just couldn't get much going against their District 10 opponent.
Turner believes that even though they won the City League title, the team was disappointed that they didn't make a run in the PIAA playoffs.
"When you accomplish one goal, naturally, you want to accomplish the next," he said. "After the game, some of our seniors were very emotional. Those tears pretty much came from the fact that we'd lost, not for many reasons outside of that."
"I was happy about our senior leadership," Gallagher said. "There were many guys who had many different experiences over their lives and careers that stepped up for us right when we needed them."
Gallagher made special mention of the players who joined his Commodores after transferring from their former North Side rivals, Oliver.
He specifically gave kudos to senior defensive back/linebacker Shakeem Cox for his leadership qualities this season.
"Shakeem, along with many of the Oliver kids, might be a better kid than he is an athlete," he said. "He was instrumental in what we were able to accomplish. The kids kind of gravitated to him.
"As a whole the Oliver kids made all the difference. They brought consistency. They all contributed to something special."
With similar sentiments, Turner mentioned that he will always have good memories of how the kids that they used to "love to beat" came in and made a big difference.
"It was an Oliver kid who hit the game-winning field goal in the City championship game," Turner said, citing junior Oliver transfer Cornilio Coates and the 27-yard field goal he made in overtime of the City title game against University Prep.
"We didn't even hit field goals before that. That is a moment that I'll probably never forget for the rest of my life."hsfootball