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Perryville comes up one win short of perfect season, state title, with 32-11 loss in 1A final

Perryville's Brian Matthews leaps to knock down a pass intended for Dunbar's Deontay McManus in Saturday's state championship game.
Perryville's Brian Matthews leaps to knock down a pass intended for Dunbar's Deontay McManus in Saturday's state championship game. (Matt Button | Record staff, Patuxent Publishing)

The Perryville football team's Cinderella season ended Saturday afternoon, when the Panthers lost, 32-11, to the Dunbar Poets in the Class 1A championship game at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

The fourth-seeded Panthers (13-1) came into the game with a perfect record, having defeated top-seeded Fort Hill one week earlier in the state semifinal round.

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"We had an opportunity their in the third quarter to score, but it just didn't happen today," Panthers' first-year head coach Chris Johnson said at a post-game press conference. "They continued to fight though. The scoreboard might have shown that we lost that game, but I feel like we were victorious in so many ways. The game was a lot closer than the score indicated."

Perryville, after turning the ball over on its initial possession via an interception, put up the first points of the game when Jacob Morgan nailed a 30-yard field goal attempt to cap a six-play drive.

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Dunbar answered on its ensuing possession, scoring a two-yard touchdown after moving the ball 55 yards on 13 plays. The Poets converted their two-point attempt, making the score 8-3 in Dunbar's favor.

Early in the second quarter, Perryville quarterback Gabe Sherrod hit receiver Brian Matthews with a 45-yard touchdown pass. On the two-point play, Ethan Griffin busted across the goal line to put the Panthers up 11-8.

The Panthers were still holding their three-point edge when the half-time whistle sounded.

The Poets wasted no time getting back out in front, scoring on two plays during their first possession of the third quarter, then converting on the their two-point attempt to go up 16-11.

Perryville had a chance to take back the lead on its ensuing possession, driving to the Poets' goal line on 17 plays, but the Panthers were stopped short on a fourth-and-goal play.

"After the game you look back and think, 'maybe we should have done this, or maybe we should have done that," Johnson said. "We had the chance to score in the first half and had to settle for the field goal, then Dunbar had that stop in the third. When it comes down to it, you have to score when you get inside the 20-yard line."

With just over two minutes left in the game, Dunbar sealed things up, scoring a 29-yard touchdown, then converting on the two-point play to go up 24-11.

Following a Perryville turnover in the final 90 seconds, Dunbar scored the game's final touchdown, and followed with a two-point conversion, making the score 32-11.

The Panthers were attempting to snap their school's 57-year championship drought – no Perryville team has brought home a Maryland crown since the 1954 boys basketball team won a Class C title.

"Perryville is a proud town," Johnson said. "It was so great to see everyone come together and support this team. I want the team to remember this as a championship season, because it was. We didn't accomplish our final goal, which was a state title, but they're still champions. And, our town should hold on to this pride they have."

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