Shootout, Part Two?
Resurgent Indians face up-tempo Perry in semi
GIRARD — Being a player during his childhood and then a coach soon after high school ended, Pat Pearson has seen almost everything high school football has to offer.
That’s especially the case in the city of Girard, where Pearson played and now is head coach. This past week, however, brought something new.
“We were walking out on the field, and there were leaves all over the turf,” Pearson said. “I’d never seen that before (at practice). I like it.”
It’s a change for the best for the Indians, who are playing deeper into the season than at anytime during Pearson’s tenure.
After a thrilling first-round victory over Lakeview, Girard (10-1) meets unbeaten Perry (11-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a Division IV, Region 13 semifinal at Twinsburg High School.
The Pirates provide something else that’s a bit new to Pearson: an offense that moves quicker than Girard’s.
“Their tempo is nothing we’ve seen before,” said Pearson, whose Indians are well-known for their no-huddle, up-tempo offense. “They snap the ball every 15 seconds. I think we play fast. The speed and tempo that they play with; they play as fast as it possibly can be done.”
To prepare for the fast pace, Pearson said the Indians’ scout team has wristbands with 20 different plays on them, and they run one after another at practice against the first-team defense.
It’s one of the many tweaks (along with leaf blowing and maybe a few extra sprints) Pearson is making as Girard tries to reach a regional final for the first time since 2011.
“We’ve conditioned all year. We’ve been building for this moment,” Pearson said. “We practice at a high tempo — we really do. Our kids are in really good shape. Our skill kids are out a half hour before (practice) every day, running routes, catching balls. Obviously (Perry’s offense) is a concern because they play so many guys, but our guys don’t get tired too often.”
Perry probably doesn’t either.
Pearson said the Pirates only have one starter who plays both ways (Girard has four), so both teams should be pretty fresh in a game that could supersede the Indians’ 33-31 shootout last week in Cortland.
Perry is led by 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback Kolston Brewster, who’s 24-1 as a starter. The big lefty has completed 167-of-247 passes (67 percent) for 2,465 yards, 29 touchdowns and five interceptions. Brewster isn’t much of a running threat (89 total rushing yards), but he has a vast array of receivers to choose from.
Four different players have at least 30 receptions and five TDs, with Josh Martin (6-1, 165) presumably leading the way with 33 catches for 572 yards and seven TDs. Jaylen Anderson (6-1, 198) has one more catch (34) with 403 yards and seven TDs. Jacob Allen (6-0, 195) adds 32 receptions, 537 yards and seven TDs, and Jacob Peteritis (5-6, 150) comes in with 34 grabs, 406 yards and five TDs.
“They like to get their athletes in space,” said Pearson of Perry, which reached the state semifinal last year. “Offensively, they’re just explosive. They can hurt you at every angle.”
The offensive numbers overshadow an impressive defense.
Corner Jake Reid (6-2, 155) has an incredible 14 interceptions, and defensive lineman Nick Mason (6-3, 250) is a returning first-team All-Ohio pick with 75 tackles (second on the team), 18.5 tackles-for-loss and six sacks.
“Their defensive line is huge,” Pearson said. “Their defense is just big and physical, and they overwhelm people.”
All that said, don’t expect Girard to be intimidated.
The Indians have plenty of stars of their own. Quarterback Mark Waid has thrown 34 TDs and three interceptions while passing for more than 3,000 yards. He’s run for another 1,110 yards and 19 TDs. Receiver Michael Belcik, fresh off a 224-yard, three-TD performance, has 70 receptions, 1,356 yards and 16 TDs.
The defense has a few powerhouses, too. Lineman Jack DelGarbino (6-2, 265) has 117 tackles and 11 TFLs, and linebacker Jamil Bannister adds 156 stops and 12 TFLs. The secondary has 12 picks (Terrence Davis with four, Anthony Backus with three), so the Indians are ready for a battle.
“Our group doesn’t back down from anybody,” Pearson said. “We like the underdog role. That’s your typical Girard kid. Everybody says it can’t done, and they count you out, we kind of flourish in that role.”