Perry Central, Paoli in battle of unbeatens

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By Larry Goffinet

PAOLI - Perry Central's 18-game PLAC football winning streak, the longest current winning streak in any conference in southwestern Indiana, will be on the line when the Commodores face unbeaten Paoli Friday at 7 p.m.

The Commodores have won the last four conference titles and have not lost a conference game since falling 16-7 at Springs Valley Oct. 10, 2003.

They are 8-0 overall this season and are up to No. 4 in the state in this week's Class A coaches poll.

Paoli is also 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the conference this year and is ranked 12th in the Class 2A coaches poll.

The Rams have not been good for as long as Perry Central has, though.

Two years ago, in Brian Balsmeyer's first year as their coach, they lost every game. And last year they lost their first three.

Then they won five in a row and "gave us a fairly good game," said Spencer. And that success has carried over to this year.

"They're getting more kids out and they've got a pretty good run of athletes," said Spencer.

Perhaps it also took a while for Balsmeyer, Jasper's former defensive coordinator, to get his system established.

The Rams, who averaged 7 points per game in Balsmeyer's first season, are averaging 42.3 points this year with a junior-dominated lineup.

"They've got speed," said Spencer. "They'll be the quickest team we've faced this year."

Logan Laswell, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior quarterback, is the Rams' fastest back and keeps the ball often on the option, said Spencer.

But running backs Josh Reef, a 5-6, 141-pound junior, and Jacob Randolph, a 5-9, 155-pound senior, also have good speed.

So do the players who alternate at fullback, 5-9, 175-pound junior Tyler Dillard and 6-1, 235-pound senior Ethan White.

"So they're always going to have four good running backs on the field," said Spencer.

The Rams also have a quick offensive line. "They're not huge, but they get off the ball and get to their assignments quickly," said Spencer.

Jordan Cole, a 6-2, 265-pound junior guard, is their biggest offensive lineman.

The Rams have also "thrown quite a bit - for about 100 yards per game," said Spencer. "But I think that's primarily because people have been concentrating so much on trying to stop their running game. They'd rather run."

They throw to a variety of receivers but Reef "probably gets it more than anybody," said Spencer.

They usually run a 5-2 defense with four deep people. But "they'll use different variations - they'll step a safety up and run it like a 5-3," said Spencer.

Linebackers Caleb Andry, a 6-foot, 175-pound sophomore, and Cody Baker, a 5-10, 185-pound junior, are defensive standouts for the Rams.

Perry Central plans some variations of its own defense to try to stop the Rams.

On offense the Commodores will again run the ball a lot but will also rely on their play-action passing.

"We'll probably have to have a good blend," said Spencer. "They're a good, quick football team."