Perry Hall running back Mike Morris Jr. said he treated Friday’s 28-14 victory over visiting Howard just like any other game.
The Gators’ aggressive offense put Morris on display. He scored three times, proving to be too much to handle for the Lions (8-3), who end their first season in the 4A classification in the North regional semifinals.
“The game plan every week is to come in and do the same thing,” Morris said. “We spread them out.”
The Lions opened with an impressive offensive showing. Quarterback Kevin Sheahin connected with Kyle Walker on a 63-yard pass for the first score of the game with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Though Howard’s defense proved effective early, the Gators would finally break through.
With 2:48 remaining before the half, Morris scored on a 10-yard run.
Then, less than two minutes later, quarterback Jeff Iweh connected with Courtney Johnson on a 21-yard reception to put the Gators in Lions territory.
Iweh then hit a diving Courtney Johnson on a deep pass inside the Howard 10-yard line. A quarterback keeper put Perry Hall ahead, 14-6.
The Gators would never relinquish the lead.
“It was touch and go there in the first half for a while,” said Perry Hall coach Keith Robinson after the game. “Then our defense settled down.”
In the second half, Morris added two more scores on long runs from 60 and 41 yards, respectively.
The junior eclipsed 100 yards in scoring plays alone.
“(Morris) is one of those guys that, when he gets the ball in some space, he’s deadly,” said Robinson.
Howard made it close when it scored late in the fourth quarter on Neil Caruso’s 39-yard reception. After the first touchdown’s extra point was blocked, the Lions needed a successful two-point conversation to stay in contention.
After calling a timeout, Caruso lined up as the quarterback and ran the conversion in on his own to put the Lions within one score.
But, on the very next drive, Morris collected his third touchdown of the night, and the Gators' defense held the Lions out of the end zone for the remainder of the contest.
Perry Hall’s Johnson grabbed two interceptions in the secondary. Defensive lineman Ben Vargas added one more.
“We knew what they were doing, but we didn’t make the plays when we had to,” said Howard coach Bruce Strunk, who has been friends with Robinson for a number of years. “They capitalized on a few of our mistakes.”
One of the highlights for the Perry Hall defense was being able to keep Lions dynamic runner Terrell Charles out of the end zone.
Charles entered Friday night’s match-up with 1570 yards on the ground in the regular season. He added an additional 140 against the Gators, but was still unable to score.
“Terrell is our workhorse,” said Strunk. “He does a great job, and he has no quit in him.”
Howard grabbed big wins over Centennial and River Hill en route to the postseason. Though they were able to get out to an early advantage against the Gators, Strunk said, ultimately, it was his team’s inability to convert on long third down opportunities hurt them the most.
“That’s not our game,” he added.
With the win, Perry Hall advances to the 4A North regional championship game, where it will face Paint Branch (10-1).
“We broke some big plays, and now it’s onto the regional championship," Robinson said.