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By LARRY GOFFINET
LEOPOLD—Perry Central’s offensive line had one of its best games and therefore so did Austin LeClere in a 47-21 first-round Class A football sectional win over Eastern Greene Friday.
LeClere carried the ball 25 times for 262 yards and five touchdowns.
Levi Hilgenhold added 12 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown as the Commodores amassed 451 yards on the ground.
LeClere said the key to his big game was “the line. I got great blocks from all of them, and (fullback) Mason Krygielka made some awesome blocks as well.
“Our line did a phenomenal job tonight. On almost every play there were big holes—the best ones I’ve had since the beginning of the year.”
Lest one might think LeClere was just being modest in giving the line so much credit, Perry Central Coach Greg Gibson echoed him.
“The guys up front were the key,” Gibson said. “We talked all week about covering their linemen up and sustaining our blocks and they did that tonight. We just dominated up front.”
Perry Central’s defensive line, with help from the linebackers of course, pretty much shut down Eastern Greene’s running game, holding the Thunderbirds to 77 yards rushing on 32 attempts.
The Thunderbirds did complete 9 of 17 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
But Perry Central’s secondary knocked down several passes and Colten Hedinger intercepted one near the end zone.
Gibson said his pass defense “overall played well. We didn’t let them get behind us, and when our starters were in there they didn’t complete much underneath.
“I thought our pass rush was good too for the most part. We just got out of our lanes at times (allowing the Thunderbird quarterbacks to scramble outside for rushing gains).”
Perry Central made three sacks, with Ryan Aders and Spencer Wright each getting one and Greg Coultas and Ethan Myler teaming for one.
Coultas and Myler’s sack shook up starting quarterback Brian Martindale in the last minute of the first quarter and he left the game for the rest of the first half.
But his backup, Cody Hopkins, came in and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brent Price on his first play at quarterback.
Two plays later, though, LeClere replied with a 63-yard run on the last play of the first quarter for his third touchdown of the game. That put the Commodores up 20-6.
On the Thunderbirds’ next play Hopkins fumbled and Ethan Emmons recovered it for Perry Central at the Eastern Greene 29-yard line.
Dacota Schaad threw a 28-yard pass to Aders and then ran the final yard himself for a touchdown.
He threw a two-point conversion pass to Hedinger to increase the Commodores’ lead to 28-6 with 11:22 left in the second quarter.
LeClere’s fourth touchdown—on an 8-yard run—and his extra-point kick made it 35-6 with 4:09 left in the second quarter.
Eastern Greene scored the next two touchdowns on passes to Logan Frey—a 25-yarder from Hopkins and a 24-yarder from Martindale—to cut Perry Central’s lead to 35-20 with 8:46 left in the third quarter.
The Thunderbirds then tried an onside kick, but the Commodores recovered it at their own 41.
LeClere then ran the ball on five consecutive plays, including a 2-yard touchdown run, to seal the outcome.
Perry Central, 7-3, will visit Linton-Stockton for a second-round game Friday at 7 p.m.
Eastern Greene finished the season 5-5.