PERRYVILLE —There is no question the heartbeat of Perryville’s 36-29 victory over North Harford came through the dynamic ability of Zack Ayers in all three phases of the game.
Last week in the Panthers’ victory, Ayers totaled 66 all purpose yards, two receiving touchdowns on offense, a go-ahead pick six that put the Panthers in front at the start of the fourth quarter and was perfect on his five PAT attempts.
The Panthers now enter week two against Joppatowne (1-0) looking to get its second victory on the season. Along with Ayers’ all-around performance, junior running back Ethen Gunter rushed for 166 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns, including the game-clinching points in the final quarter.
“If we’re able to establish the run with Ethen that’s going to kind of put another person in the box. If they put another person in the box, we have some kids on the outside who have the ability to push the field vertically,” Head Coach Sean Sandora said of Gunter. “Establishing the run is first-and-foremost the thing we have to do, we’ve got to dominate the line of scrimmage.”
In Joppa’s victory, the Mariners defense totaled six sacks throughout its 38-0 romp, including three from Joppatowne senior Dajohn Short. The defensive end also totaled seven quarterback hurries. Along with its party at the quarterback, the Mariners defense totaled 11 tackles for loss.
Perryville’s offensive line kept Rob Siek on his feet throughout the Panthers win last week. Sandora is hopeful his line can continue playing well up front. Quarterback Rob Siek went 5-13, for 91 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the victory over North Harford.
“We’ve been preaching all week long our offensive line has to do a really good job protecting Rob and giving him time to make his reads and get the ball out of his hands. We know they’re going to be an aggressive team, they’re going to play man on the back end,” Sandora said. “We did a really good job against North Harford of establishing the line of scrimmage and protecting our quarterback.”
Sandora’s own defense should also play a key factor entering tonight’s matchup in preventing Joppa’s offense from getting into a rhythm. In its win over Loch Raven, the Mariners combined for 379 yards on offense.
Joppatowne quarterback Anthony Wilson completed 10 of his 17 passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns last week, while senior running back Steven Robinson rushed for 159 yards on 11 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run.
Perryville totaled two interceptions between Kyle Huth and Ayers. North Harford rushed for a total of 139 yards on 30 carries against Perryville.
“First and foremost, we’ve got to try and make them one dimensional and stop the run and then force them to pass the ball,” Sandora said. “Defensively we have to be gap sound up front, attack our gaps and tackle well.”
The matchup pits two 1A teams up against each other who reached at least the state quarterfinals last season. Joppa’s season came to an end against Fort Hill in the quarterfinals.
Sandora expects it to be nothing short of exciting.
“It’ll be good just to see in an early game season how we stack up against one another. We did 7-on-7 against them in the spring a lot, so there’s that competition there with the coaching staff and with the players,” Sandora said. “It will be good to see how it all unfolds on Friday.”