Perryville senior running backs Elijah Johnson and Eathen Griffin combined for 317 yards and six touchdowns Friday night to lead the Panthers past visiting Kent County, 56-28, in a Class 1A East Region semifinal.
The win puts Perryville back in the region title game for a third straight year, but this time on the road. The Panthers travel to Cambridge-South Dorchester next Friday to meet the top seed Vikings at 7 p.m.
In Friday's win, Griffin got the Panthers off to a very fast start. Kent County, coached by former John Carroll player and graduate, Brendon Ireton, opted for an onside kick to begin play. Perryville recovered at its 42 and on the first snap, Griffin took the handoff and raced 58 yards into the end zone. Josh Bargsten's first of eight successful placement kicks made it 7-0 with 11:43 to play.
"I can't take personal credit for that," Griffin said. "It was my team, we were working hard all week, all season as a matter of fact."
Almost as impressive, Kent County came right back and scored on a 46-yard burst by Nai'quan Hackett. A fake extra-point attempt resulted in a fumble and Perryville led 7-6.
Both teams were getting good starting field position as neither team kicked the ball deep. The Panthers next possession started at the 37 and in five plays they were back in the end zone on Johnson's five-yard run.
Perryville (7-4) went ahead, 21-6, late in the opening quarter. Following a Perryville defensive stop inside its own 20, Griffin (10 carries, 164 yards) ran for 30 yards to set up quarterback Cam Cunningham's 48-yard touchdown pass to Ty'Rell Hollingsworth.
Hollingsworth then intercepted a Kent County pass, and returned the ball 37 yards, setting up the next Panthers possession at the Trojans 23. Cunningham did the honors from two yards out.
Griffin's second touchdown came midway through the second quarter from two yards as well making it, 35-6.
Kent County (7-4) stopped the Perryville scoring run with its second score. Quarterback Stevie Curran passed eight yards to Tavon Thomas and Hackett (six carries, 89 yards) ran for the two-point conversion with 1:27 to play in the half. Thomas left the game in the third quarter and did not return with a suspected concussion.
On the conversion, Kent County was flagged for a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and forced to kickoff from its 10. Perryville took over at the Trojans 32 and in four plays, scored again. Johnson ran six yards for the score and Perryville led at the half, 42-12.
Both Perryville touchdowns in the second half were scored by Johnson. He raced 70 yards in the third quarter and then capped his four touchdown night with a 20-yard scamper in the fourth. Johnson finished with 153 yards on 10 carries.
Kent County's two second half scores were also scored by one player, freshman Marquan Greene. Greene ran eight yards early in the fourth quarter and then electrified the crowd on his 76-yard touchdown run with 2:11 left. Curran ran for two points to end the scoring. Greene had a huge night, running for 207 yards on 24 carries.
"I felt we could move the ball on them," Panthers Head Coach Chris Johnnson said. "We've seen, we've got other films that other teams have run Wing-T against them. We looked at the guard trap as a play they have struggled with, so that's why we opened up with that. We knew offensively they were also a strong club."
Cunningham completed all three passes for 88 yards. Curran was 5-for-14 for 37 yards.