Perry Meridian’s conference bucket list no doubt included finding a way to pick up a victory against Whiteland.
Falcons 28, Warriors 13.
In its sixth try since joining the Mid-State Conference in 2018, the Falcons finally got the job done Friday night, defeating the Warriors — who were often their own worst enemy, committing four turnovers.
The Falcons took the field having lost the previous five meetings against Whiteland teams by an average of 37 points a contest.
“They outplayed us. They played well,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said of the Falcons (2-3, 1-2). “We are a depleted … it’s not an excuse … football team, and they came in and took advantage of what we had and did not have tonight.
“I’m proud of the whole team for its fight. Again, we had to find some guys to make plays. We had a lot of young kids step in there and play. A lot of guys play their first meaningful varsity snaps tonight.”
Junior running back Slate Valentine was a workhorse for the Warriors (2-3, 1-2), carrying the ball 30 times for 129 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough.
The Warriors trailed at the half, 14-7, despite rushing for 124 yards — 72 by Valentine — over the course of the first two quarters. Whiteland closed to within a point on a 3-yard touchdown run by sophomore Dane Kunz with 3:17 left in the third, but the momentum proved to be short-lived.
Perry Meridian answered with senior quarterback Zachary Huckaby calling his own number on second and 10 and powering 16 yards for a touchdown with 9:39 remaining in the fourth stanza.
Warriors quarterback Oliver Taylor threw the second of his three interceptions on the next series, leading to the Falcons going 35 yards in four plays to essentially ice it. Junior Andy Warren barreled in from the 1 with 4:29 left for the game’s final touchdown.
Now in his fourth year at Perry Meridian after coaching Indian Creek for three seasons, Brett Cooper was ecstatic afterward, though not entirely surprised.
“We’re good. We know we’re good. We haven’t finished two ballgames this year,” said Cooper, referring to an overtime loss to Franklin in Week 3 and last week’s 21-20 heartbreaker at Plainfield.
“We knew that this senior class was going to push this program forward, and it did. Our defense caused four turnovers, and we hadn’t had a turnover in two weeks. That was a major emphasis for us this week, and it came true.”
Perry Meridian used Jonathan Hunter’s 65-yard run to the Whiteland 23-yard line on the game’s first play from scrimmage to hoard the momentum. Six plays later, junior quarterback Allen Zupan connected with wideout Ethan Neffle on a perfectly executed slant pattern from 9 yards for the game’s first points.
The Warriors marched 80 yards in 12 plays to tie the score on Valentine’s 9-yard burst up the middle into the end zone at 3:45 of the first quarter. Perry Meridian did its part, personal foul and offside penalties helping move the ball deeper into Falcons’ territory.
Whiteland’s defense forced a three and out on the next series, but the Warriors fumbled two plays later, leading to a 51-yard scoop and score from senior defensive back Isaiah Needam for a 14-7 advantage.
The Warriors are back at home on Friday to face Martinsville.