By Steve Page
Perry Meridian 15, Decatur Central 14.
Friday’s football score said it all for the Falcons.
The last time they had defeated Mid-State Conference rival Decatur Central was August of 2013 when the Falcons literally outscored the Hawks 83-78. Really.
DC had won all eight meetings since then, and only one was close – 32-25 in overtime in 2015. During that run, the Hawks outscored the Falcons by an average margin of 45-15.
With an overall record of 3-5 this season, the Falcons have won as many games as they did in coach Brett Cooper’s first two seasons at the helm.
“Biggest win since we’ve been here! Biggest win since we’ve been here!” Cooper exclaimed, happily repeating that thought.
After scoring the touchdown that brought them to within 14-13 with 5.5 seconds to play, the Falcons went for two points on the conversion.
Junior running back/quarterback Zach Huckaby, who directed the winning drive in place of injured sophomore Allen Zupan, followed his line into the end zone, prompting the first of two joyous outbursts by his teammates.
The joy was temporarily tempered when the only player left in the end zone was Huckaby, injured on the go-ahead conversion. He was then helped off the field by teammate Andy Warren III. Upon reaching the home team sideline, Huckaby was happily greeted by his teammates and coaches.
The second eruption came shortly thereafter, when the Hawks finished those final seconds unsuccessfully trying to lateral their way downfield following the kickoff.
“I knew we wanted to win. I did whatever I had to do to win,” Huckaby said. “He (Cooper) knew what to do. We had to listen to him. I just know how to execute.”
Of the final drive, Huckaby said, “We put some plays together, so we could go as hard as we could. We just needed to do our job.”
Cooper said going for two points was not a last-minute decision.
“We knew that when we crossed the 50,” he said. “I like to gamble.”
Huckaby concurred, saying, “He (Cooper) said, ‘You guys want to win this thing, don’t you?’ “We said, ‘Yes, sir!’”
The Falcons needed just 59 seconds to drive 80 yards in seven plays.
Huckaby, who had hooked up with senior wideout Landon Eagan on a 36-yard post route for a touchdown 10.5 seconds before intermission, repeated that magic just before the finish. He found sophomore wide receiver Byron Hon streaking behind the secondary, and he pulled down Huckaby’s pass for the 21-yard scoring strike that closed the deficit to one point.
“When you play three quarterbacks, it’s tough to win a ball game,” said Cooper. “But we did!”
Zupan started, going 4-10-2 for 61 yards before being injured during a DC interception return early in the third quarter. Senior Ivan Caldera took over at that juncture, going 2-5-1 for 31 yards. Huckaby, who took many direct snaps out of the wildcat formation, was 5-9-0 for 79 yards and the two scores. He was his team’s leading rusher with 90 yards on 13 carries, an average of 6.9 yards.
When asked how he felt after the game, Huckaby smiled and said, “How do I feel? Beat up.”
The Falcons were fortunate they had the opportunity for the game-winning drive.
DC, leading 14-7, drove to a fourth down at the PM 20 with time winding down. The Hawks lined up for a field goal, but a scramble ensued after the snap, with kicker Ashton Vogel scooping up the loose ball, only to be smothered as he tried to get away.
Freshman quarterback Bo Polston went 8-14-1 for 80 yards. He rushed eight times for 43 yards, including a one-yard, lean-in for DC’s score 4:06 before the end of the half. Junior running back KC Berry was the workhorse, totaling 149 yards on 17 rushes, an average of 8.8 yards. He scored his team’s first TD on a 39-yard sprint with 8:19 left in the third quarter. Vogel kicked both conversions.
Perry improved to 2-4 in the MSC and 3-5 overall, dropping the Hawks to 2-4, 3-5.
The Hawks hindered themselves by committing 12 penalties for 118 yards. The Falcons had two penalties for 22 yards.
Hawk coach Kyle Enright declined to comment.