Perry left some points on the board but had enough to spare in beating Hardaway 31-12 in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs Friday at Herb St. John Stadium.
If anything, the points made the game feel closer than it was. Or maybe should have been is a better description.
They came via a pair of missed field goals – being unable to take advantage of a handful of turnovers by the visiting Hawks.
On the other hand, a couple of blocked punts and a block on a point after helped Perry more than make up for it. The first of those came on Hardaway’s first possession. It resulted in a scoop-and-score by Price Massey. Caden Camp made the point after with 10:24 showing on the first quarter clock.
After forcing the Hawks to a three-and-out – it took three possessions before they picked up their first first down – the Panthers first stalled, then missed on a 39-yard field goal try. Both punted following to bring the first quarter to an end.
Hardaway punted again to start the second. Perry then put together a 10-play, 77-yard drive and scored on Daequan Wright’s nine-yard run. Camp made it 14-0 with just over six minutes left.
The Hawks made it 14-6 with a nine-play, 63-yard drive to answer. It was finished off with an 11-yard pass from D.J. Lucas to Mykel Williams.
Perry answered with a four-play score needing just 15 yards. It was set up by a return of 40-plus yards by Caleb Wilson and capped off by Wright’s four-yard run. Camp made it 21-6 with less than a minute before the break.
An interception gave the Panthers a chance to add to it, but a 31-yard field goal attempt went wide.
Both traded punts to start the third. Perry was also intercepted, but its defense held by blocking another punt attempt. That put the ball on the Hawks’ 13. It got it to the eight before stalling and this time calling on Carter Horton. He was good from 31 yards and made it 24-6.
The two traded interceptions; some of those aforementioned points on the board for the Panthers. Hardaway scored following its pick, eight plays, 69 yards and on a four-yard pass. This was where Perry blocked the point after, so that made it 24-12.
Perry punted. Hardaway turned it over on downs. That was on their own 18. The Panthers scored four plays later on a one-yard run by Perell Lowe. That came with 2:51 left. The Hawks ran it down to just a few seconds before turning it over on downs. Perry went into victory formation to finish it off.
It improved to 10-1 and moved to the second round for the third-straight year. Hardaway’s year came to an end at 6-5.