City League Championship: University Prep (5-2) vs. Perry (7-2)
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It's easy for a coach to say he treats every game equally, with the same amount of concentration and preparation.
Regardless of whether it is the season opener, a midseason mismatch or a championship game, the plan and overall mindset remain consistent.
It's a sentiment, though, that is much easier to tout than to actually execute. For Perry coach Bill Gallagher, however, it's simply the way he has always done things.
With his Commodores team set for its biggest game of the year -- the City League championship against University Prep at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cupples Stadium -- Gallagher insists that nothing has changed; rather, it's just football, on a slightly more magnified stage.
"Our motto for the past 12 years has been: 'It's the most important game because it's the next game,'" Gallagher said. "We really stress that every time you step on the field, it's the most important game."
The matchup will pit the two teams that, for much of the season, have been atop the City League standings, with both teams advancing to the championship game with little trouble.
Perry claimed the league's top spot in the regular season with a 7-2 overall record and a 5-0 mark in league play.
In their five City League wins, the Commodores outscored their opponents by an average of 22.4 points per game, largely by utilizing the legs of Curtis Edmonds, who rushed for 1,028 yards and averaged 7.3 yards per carry in the regular season.
University Prep was the only team that averaged more points per game in City League competition than Perry, with the Wildcats scoring 36.4 points per game.
That scoring barrage continued in the postseason as they dropped 46 points on Brashear in a 46-6 victory last week in the league's semifinals.
Quarterback Akil Young has been a catalyst for the Wildcats offense, having thrown for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns in the team's seven-game regular season.
Saturday will mark the second meeting between the teams this season. Perry won, 12-6, on Oct. 19, edging a University Prep team that was playing with heavy hearts less than a week after one of its key players, Ne'Ondre Harbour, was shot and killed.
Wildcats players such as team captain Myles Catlin said they are ready for a rematch, especially with so much on the line.
"I guess you could say we underestimated them last time," Catlin, a wide receiver/defensive back, said. "We had been winning games by so much that we came in cocky.
"We can't show any mercy this time. We just have to come in, try to beat them and get out of there."
Playing in a league of six teams, only 14 days removed from their last matchup, there will be no surprises awaiting the Wildcats and Commodores Saturday at Cupples Stadium -- just the opportunity for a defining win and, of course, the league championship.
"The one thing in our league is that everybody knows everyone anyhow," Gallagher said. "It's not that big of a deal that we played a couple of weeks ago. We're really excited for the rematch."
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game, both teams have already qualified for the PIAA playoffs. Perry will be the City League representative in Class AAAA and University Prep in AAA.
First Published November 2, 2012 12:00 am