North Xtra: Perry gets a big kick out of City League title
Perry players celebrate by hoisting Cornelio Coates on their shoulders after he made the winning field goal in the City League championship against University Prep Saturday at Cupples Stadium.
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The fabric of Perry football, according to coach Bill Gallagher, has always been toughness, brotherhood and the will to win.
After winning his seventh City League football title with the Commodores, Gallagher likes to find something special about each of them.
"It's important for young men to be successful," he said. "These guys took the time and effort to accomplish what we needed to this season.
"We had three tough opponents whom we had to take care of and our young men showed us what Perry football is all about."
With the closing of neighboring Oliver High School last season -- as has been the trend for several City League football teams lately -- many of its players put on the blue and white and became Commodores.
"I knew immediately with coming to Perry, I was finally going to have my shot to win a title," said Perry senior defensive back Shakeem Cox, who transferred from Oliver as a result of the school merger.
"The coaching staff, my teammates and the entire school has done nothing but embrace us [Oliver transfers]. We got together in the offseason workouts and have had only one goal. Winning titles is our lone focus."
The addition of Oliver players paid dividends for Perry (8-2) in Saturday's City title game when Oliver transfer Cornelio Coates booted the winning 27-yard field goal through the uprights to seal a 9-6 overtime victory against the defending champs, University Prep, which is itself a merger of University Prep, Obama and Science & Technology -- the team likes to call itself U-S-O.
Amazingly, Perry hadn't registered a field goal since the 2009 campaign.
"It was a last-minute decision to work him in as a kicker," Gallagher said. "He had been working hard to become a better receiver, but we knew he'd been a long-time soccer player. He worked at it everyday for about two weeks and it was unanimous from a coaching standpoint that we would use him."
Meanwhile, senior running back Curtis Edmonds, along with classmate Robert Willie have formed the City's toughest rushing tandem.
Edmonds has played more of the feature-back role and has rushed for 1,055 yards this season -- a goal that he set for himself after last year.
"I knew I needed to dig deep, if I did good things were going to happen," Edmonds said. "After we lost in the playoffs last year, I told myself I needed to stay dedicated, listen to my coaches, and improve on what I'd already accomplished. If I did all that, I knew that there would be no reason why I wouldn't go over 1,000 this year."
Also, Ahmed Turner, the team's senior quarterback, has been respected around the league as a dual threat with his legs and arm.
"[Turner] can throw the ball," University Prep coach Lou Berry said prior to the City title game. "Let there be no mistake made about this kid. He is definitely not a one-dimensional player. His ability to throw the ball well is something that our defense will be preparing for."
Berry made reference to Turner's 15-yard winning touchdown pass to Daron Clark in Perry's defeat of Brashear in the league semifinals to back his point.
"That ball was perfectly thrown and at a very crucial time," Berry said. "That showed me a lot about the kid's heart."
The Commodores will face McDowell, the Class AAAA District 10 champion from the suburban Erie area, in a PIAA first-round game Nov. 16 at Fairfield High School.
"They're a very well-coached football team that likes to control the ball," Gallagher said. "They have a very good running game with guys who can go to [big-time colleges]. We need to just be ready and play Perry football."