GILBERT — Perry fumbled the ball away three times Friday at Gilbert. They also threw a pair of interceptions.
What Perry also did was hold Gilbert to just 17 yards passing while throwing for 343 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 98 yards to spoil Gilbert’s Homecoming, 31-27.
Quarterback Alexis Garrido sat out the first quarter but more than made up for his 12-minute absence by finishing 17-of-27 for 315 yards and four TDs.
Bluejay wideouts Brandon Kenyon and Reece Dunlap sparkled, with the former repeatedly making acrobatic catches while the latter simply refused to be tackled by the first defender on the scene. Kenyon’s showcase featured 11 receptions for 203 yards and three TDs while Dunlap pulled in six aerials for 133 yards and a score.
Perry had been shelled Sept. 22 in their Homecoming game, 42-7, by No. 5 DC-G, and were eager to experience the other side of a HoCo contest, co-head coach Ben Coy said.
“We had one of our best weeks of practice,” Coy said. “We thought we had an opportunity tonight, and it was great to see the kids come out fighting, even after we got down that first touchdown. It is amazing what confidence does for you.”
Kaleb Olejniczak was 1-for-4 behind center in the first frame, connecting with Dunlap once for 28 yards. He and Garrido were each intercepted once.
Gilbert (1-5, 1-3) scored on fullback Mitchell Johnson’s four-yard plunge with 2:15 to play in the opening frame, but John Howell missed the PAT kick, leaving the score at 6-0.
Perry responded immediately, with Garrido leading a drive that finished with Kenyon corralling an 18-yard scoring strike. German Alvarenga hit all four of his PAT boots (he is now 14-of-14 on the season) to put Perry in front, 7-6.
Gilbert began to move the ball at will on the ground, often running sweeps off tackle and occasional cut-back, counter-type plays. Ajay Reed (20 carries, 134) did damage, as did Eric Swart (7-68, 1 TD), who scored on an eight-yard sprint, with Howell’s PAT moving the hosts into a 13-7 lead.
The Bluejays (2-4, 1-3) had the answer in the form of scrambles and designed runs by Garrido, which moved the ball to the 37-yard line. Kenyon was wide left on a “trips left” formation, cutting across the middle of the field and grabbing a perfectly thrown ball, and then he outran the defense for a 63-yard TD to put Perry in front, 14-13.
Perry had the ball late in the half and showed great effectiveness in crisply marching to the Tiger eight-yard line. Three plays moved the ball five yards and, without a timeout, the field goal unit raced onto the field in time to allow Alvarenga to split the uprights with a 19-yard chip shot for a 17-13 edge with less than four seconds left on the first half clock.
Gilbert had trouble passing the ball throughout the game, with the Perry secondary of Olejniczak, Dunlap and Mana Martinez, along with Justin Stammer and Donald Chavez, repeatedly deflecting passes or knocking the ball out of the hands of would-be receivers.
Tiger quarterback Matt Barragy finished only 6-of-19 for 17 yards and was lucky Jon Flores’ second quarter interception was the only Perry theft of the game.
The Gilbert running game, however, was able to move the ball for most of the game and finished with 240 yards on 46 carries, with Johnson falling into the end zone from a yard out for a 20-17 Tiger lead with 6:48 left in the third quarter.
Perry lost the second of three fumbles on their next possession, but then forced a three-and-out. Two runs from Garrido and a Kenyon circus-like leaping catch kept the drive moving. Dunlap was left uncovered in a defensive lapse from the 21-yard line, and Garrido swiftly flipped him the ball to flip the scoreboard to 24-20 in favor of the Jays.
Barragy leaned across the goal line on a third attempt from less than a yard away with 7:07 to play in the game, giving the hosts a 27-24 lead.
Perry sharply moved down the field, with Kenyon catching a key six-yard pass while Olejniczak made an important seven-yard grab. A 24-yard connection to Dunlap placed the ball on the Tiger six-yard line, with Kenyon making a highlight-reel leaping catch in the far right corner of the end zone, stealing the ball out of the arms of the defender for what became the game-winning score.
Gilbert was forced to punt the ball away and hope to stop the Perry offense as the game clock wound down. The Jays were stopped short of a first down on a Garrido third-down run with just over a minute to play, but a Tiger player threw a punch to Garrido’s shoulder. He was immediately ejected, and the personal foul gave Perry a first down and allowed the Bluejays to run out the clock and secure the win.
The Perry offensive line allowed a first-quarter sack of Olejniczak but then kept their quarterback upright and untouched for the remainder of the contest.
“Alexis did a great job of getting rid of the ball on time and speeding up his release, which he has been working hard on improving,” Coy said. “We know Brandon and Reece can make big plays. It’s just about getting the ball to them in (open) space.”
Garrido rushed 10 times for 60 yards, Chavez eight times for 31 yards and Dunlap four times for 21 yards.
Olejniczak had 9.5 tackles to lead the defense, with Kenyon and Martinez making 5.5 stops apiece while Ethan McFarland had five denials and Rony Reyes four. Flores added a sack and two tackles to his interception.
Perry returns to Dewey Field Friday to face No. 6 Webster City (5-1, 3-1), who dropped a 20-0 decision to DC-G. Greene County visits Perry Oct. 13 for the Cowbell Game, with the season concluding Oct. 20 with a trip to Iowa Falls-Alden.