MAPLE HEIGHTS — Deep runs in the playoffs have been become almost expected by Perry football over the last decade. The Pirates have been a fixture on the Division IV playoff scene, including a run to the state semifinals in 2016.
By contrast, from the moment Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy stepped on the field Saturday at Maple Heights Stadium, the Royals were in uncharted territory.
CVCA’s first trip to the Division IV, Region 13 regional semifinals was also a rematch of last year’s region quarterfinal, which saw the Pirates eliminate the Royals.
CVCA quarterback Michael Bevington said the previous week that he wanted to avenge last year’s loss. However, Royals were unable to get their revenge.
Four CVCA turnovers and an unstoppable Perry passing attack served to end the Royals season with a 37-14 loss to the Pirates in a Division IV, Region 13 semifinal game.
CVCA ended its season season at 8-4. Perry improved to 12-0 and advanced to the regional final next Saturday.
Tears flowed in the Royals’ post-game huddle, as coach Dan Larlham lauded his team for its deepest run in school history.
"We had a group of seniors that ignored the critics and stayed together and fought," Larlham said. "Holy cow, those are lessons that are going to last a lifetime.
"We shot ourselves in the foot," he added. "Did we give it away? No, there were a lot of takeaways. [Perry is] going to be playing for a couple of weeks yet."
Perry coach Matt Rosati said lauded his defense for slowing the Royals.
"Our defense played really well tonight," Rosati said. "We knew there quarterback [Bevington] was going to be a handful. They did a nice job keeping the ball away from us. Once we got a few extra possessions, we were able to get going."
The key player in the Pirates attack were quarterback Drew Schiano and junior running back Jaylen Anderson.
Schiano finished with only two incompletions on the night, as he went 15-of-17 for 243 yards and four touchdowns.
By contrast, Bevington went 12-of-20 for 91 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Anderson got the Pirates on the board with 5:40 left in the first quarter, as he snagged a pass over the middle from Schiano for an 18-yard touchdown. A fake kick on the extra point, however, was snuffed out by the Royals.
The Royals were able to answer with their best pass of the night. After gaining a couple of first downs, Bevington hit Noah Atwood with a 31-yard bomb for a touchdown.
Bryce Kigtlinger’s extra point gave CVCA the 7-6 lead with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
It took Perry just two plays to reply, however, as Scinano hit Anderson with a 26-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left in the first quarter, making 13-7 Perry after one.
Both defenses came up big in the red zone in the second quarter. After Perry was able to get to the CVCA 1-yard line, the Royals defense force Perry to settle for s 24-yard field goal from Calvin Rowan with 4:43 left in the half.
However, CVCA had two drives in Pirate territory end on turnovers. First, the Pirates stripped Shane Douglas and recovered the ball at the CVCA 26.
Then, Bevington was picked off by Perry’s Deandre Malone in the end zone, ended the Royals’ scoring chance.
Up 16-7 at the half, Perry took control of the game early in third quarter.
The Pirated took the second-half kickoff and marched down the field, as Schiano hit Anderson with his third touchdown pass of the night. This time Anderson scored from 13 yards out on a slant.
Anderson rushed six times for 63 yards and caught five passes for 73 yards, leading the Pirates in both categories.
CVCA’s next drive ended with Bevington getting picked off by Desmond Malone. Two plays later, Perry struck again off a screen pass, as Schiano hit Devon Holbert in the open and Holbert ran past the Royals’ defense for a 61-yard touchdown.
Perry gained one more score early in the fourth quarter, when Holbert turned a jet sweep into a 30-yard touchdown run.
CVCA didn’t give up, even in the face of the running clock rule. The Royals scored on their last play from scrimmage, as Bevington ran in a 5-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left.
Bevington ran the ball 35 times for CVCA for 114 yards and a touchdown.