TOLEDO — Whitmer wore down Perrysburg with its size in the trenches and the running of two sophomore backs, handing the Yellow Jackets their first loss, 25-15, at Whitmer Memorial Stadium Friday.
One week after the Panthers defeated Anthony Wayne, 42-28, combined with AW’s 18-14 victory over Findlay on Friday, Whitmer now sits alone on top of the Northern Lakes League Buckeye Division standings.
Whitmer, 5-2 overall, is 2-0 in the NLL while Perrysburg falls to 6-1 and 1-1.
“It’s a big game. We took a baby step last week with Anthony Wayne and this was an important game to try and take control a little bit of the NLL, but we still have a little more,” Whitmer coach Ken Winters said.
“It’s a huge win just getting that tonight and we still have three more to go but I like the way we finished that game.”
For Perrysburg, it was a mistake-filled game that coach Dirk Conner says his team would like to have back.
“I’m proud of this group and the way that they played tonight,” Conner said. “We made some many uncharacteristic mistakes tonight. We absolutely shot ourselves in the foot with stupidity.
“Those guys wanted it so bad, Man — they did, and they felt slighted all week because people don’t think we are we need to be.
“But I think they pressed a little too much and that is something that we have to learn from. If we are going to play in big games moving forward, we’ve got to clean up the stuff that we did tonight.
“I’d rather learn from a win. There are always learning opportunities. We had two unsportsmanlike conducts, we had a personal foul and we had three turnovers. That is how you lose games like this. That’s absolutely what we did.”
On Perrysburg’s first drive of the second half, they marched 55 yards on nine plays, aided by a roughing the passer personal foul penalty whistled against the Panthers’ defense on a punt.
After the penalty gave the Yellow Jackets a first down at the Whitmer 42, Perrysburg junior quarterback Josh Takats found junior wide receiver Dominick Woods for a 30-yard pass play.
Three plays later, Takats threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior wide receiver Gavin Fenneken, giving Perrysburg a 15-13 lead with 7:51 remaining in the third quarter.
However, early in the fourth quarter, Perrysburg senior Samuel Lawanson III muffed a punt, and the fumble was recovered by Whitmer junior linebacker Torrean Boone at the Jackets’ 15-yard line.
Five plays later, sophomore running back Joey Morales scored from three yards out, and after a failed conversion pass, the Panthers took the lead back, 19-15, with 9:50 remaining.
On Perrysburg’s next possession, Takats was sacked for a nine-yard loss by Whitmer senior defensive lineman Chris Fullen, sophomore defensive lineman Harper Stiles, and junior linebacker Napoleon Jemison, which the Jackets could not recover from and were forced to punt.
Whitmer took over with on its own 9-yard line after a 45-yard punt by junior Braxton Mefferd, and then the Panthers took advantage of a worn down and beleaguered Perrysburg defense.
Whitmer systematically ran 12 running plays behind Morales and sophomore back Jaden Jones, covering 91 yards and taking up six minutes and 32 seconds, scoring on Jones’ one-yard run, giving the Panthers a two-possession lead with 1:37 remaining.
“Hats off to them for doing what they needed to do, especially in the last drive,” Conner said. “They are a very, very good football team and they played a nice, clean game tonight and hats off to them.
“(We were) absolutely worn down. We were absolutely running out of bodies. It’s not an excuse. We have to have some guys step up and get our depth built back up because we are going to be without a couple guys probably for a little while,” Conner continued.
Morales ran for 125 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns and Jones ran for 87 yards on 15 carries.
“I’ve been talking about sophomore backs the last couple of weeks,” Winters said. “After the first two weeks, we knew we were going to roll them out.
“Since we rolled them out in week three every week they’ve gotten better and now that Jaden and Joey are in the mix, it’s a nice one-two punch.”
The Panthers, who have six linemen listed at over six feet tall and 300 pounds-plus, had to overcome 13 penalties for 122 yards, including eight holding penalties for 80 yards.
“It was very frustrating,” Winters said. “We kept running the ball but we kept getting penalties and I think something like eight holding penalties on us and they had none.
“But you have to fight through it. You can’t sit there and just get focused on that. You’ve got to just get back out there and keep running the ball and that is just what we did.
“We thought we could wear them down and we got to the fourth quarter and we would keep running the ball, and on that last drive we did.”
Whitmer finished withi 349 yards of total offense to Perrysburg’s 231, and had 25 first downs to the Jackets’ 15. Perrysburg had just 11 yards on the ground, so they had to rely on Takats’ passing game.
“We were throwing a lot more than we wanted to because we lost two starting offensive linemen tonight and had to go to No. 6 and 7,” Conner said.
“We’re not real deep anyways, so we’re not going to be physical enough up front to grind the way that we would like to grind.”
Takats completed 14-of-30 passes with one touchdown, but he threw two interceptions and was sacked three times and finished with a net loss of 15 yards running the football. Senior running back Nick Oros had eight carries for 25 yards.
Fenneken was Takats’ favorite receiver with seven catches for 100 yards, junior Zach Schroeder had four catches for 88 yards, Woods had two catches for 22 yards, and junior Iain Hall had one catch for 10 yards.
Adding to Whitmer’s ground game was senior quarterback Alijah Shabazz with 32 yards on two carries and junior quarterback Brady Ford with 14 yards on seven carries.
Ford completed 7-of-15 passes for 89 yards with one interception and was sacked once. Senior Logan Frank caught three passes for 28 yards, sophomore Kevion Lee had two catches for 23 yards, sophomore Isaiah Hayward had a catch for 31 yards, and senior Avery Taylor had a seven-yard reception.
Shabazz led Whitmer’s defense with six tackles, including five solo, Jemison had five tackles, including three for a loss and two sacks, and Boone had six tackles, including four solo. Junior linebacker Wes Lyons and sophomore defensive back Camarr Burton had interceptions.
Leading Perrysburg’s defense was junior linebacker Joseph Seney with 14 tackles, including 11 solo, one sack, an interception, and 2½ tackles for a loss.
Perrysburg senior linebacker Abram Hire had 11 tackles, including eight solo and 1½ for a loss, and Mefferd had eight tackles, including one for a loss.
In the first half, Perrysburg scored on a one-yard run by Seney and a 27-yard field goal by senior Taylor Thomas. Whitmer scored on two Morales runs from 22 and two yards.