Senior staff writer
Immediately after Friday’s Battle of Perry Township, Southport football coach Brandon Winters congratulated his team on its best week of practice and best game of the season.
The Cardinals’ new up-tempo offense kept township rival Perry Meridian on its heels and led to a fast 20-0 start in the first 12 minutes, which set the pace for a 48-14 Conference Indiana win at Perry Stadium.
Southport’s Blake Evans, the state’s pass receiving record holder, showed his fondness in the Cardinals’ game plan by catching 10 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
“We practiced up-tempo all week, so we really felt comfortable with it,” Evans said. “We tried to run and run and then go over the top. I told Ed (Schott) to have fun back there (quarterback). We had to overlook last week and have some fun.”
With Southport’s record-holding quarterback Luke Johnston (a Marian University recruit) watching from the sidelines, Schott completed 14-of-18 passes for 227 yards and four TDs in the first half for a 27-7 lead.
Perry Meridian and Southport as well as their first-year head coaches ran onto Ray Skillman Field seeking their first win. Winters and Falcons coach Matt Henninger played against each other in the Battle of Perry when they were in high school.
“We definitely wanted to push the pace,” Winters said. “If you can play fast and execute well, it makes it tough on the defense because they don’t have much of a chance to make adjustments. We made them (Perry Meridian) earn everything.”
The Falcons scored on short touchdown runs by Rodrigo Diaz in the second quarter and Jason Lee in the fourth. Sophomore running back Franklin Hammond gained 87 yards on 21 carries but was injured late in the game, necessitating precautionary immobilization by emergency personnel. Hammond recognized the crowd’s applause with a thumbs-up. Both coaches then agreed to end the game with 2:10 left.
Henninger reported that Hammond will be OK other than sustaining some soreness.
“Our kids battled all night long,” Henninger said. “We did a lot of things really well in all three phases. We’ll continue to build on those positives and work to make right the areas we are struggling with. We’ve got a good young football team, and we’ll get it all put together.”
He also observed that Southport did a good job of putting their players in positions to be successful and that the Falcons were slow getting out of the starting gate Friday.
Perry Meridian mustered only 116 yards rushing and 126 yards passing; Jason Lee completed seven-of-11 passes but was picked off on a tipped pass that resulted in a 65-yard TD runback by Gabe Collins-Green in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons were plagued by four second-half fumbles with Southport recovering two of those miscues.
Senior Keaton Moore, 10 tackles, and junior Gage Higgs, seven tackles, led Southport’s defense.