In a battle of swashbucklers, it was the South Range Raiders who won.
Their powerful offense continued its reign of terror Friday on the frigid field of Great Lakes Cheese Stadium, as South Range dispatched Perry 49-21 in the Division V, Region 17 final.
The win gives the Raiders their first appearance in the state final four since 2017 and third all-time appearance at the state level.
While it’s on to the next one, like it has been for the past 14 weeks, longtime South Range coach Dan Yeagley hopes the team is able to reflect on its achievement.
“We don’t absorb the moment that much. I mean we can’t, we’ve got to keep on concentrating, got to think about the next game,” Yeagley said. “I hope these guys sit back and realize what they’ve just done. We got to the state semis, did a great job and I’m very proud of those kids.
“Those seniors have fought for four years to get to this point and we’re here. Lots of fun. Great game. That is a great ball team. It was crazy at the beginning, everything was going all over the place. Our team settled down and got into the rhythm and thank goodness. Like I said, I’m very proud of them.”
It took until the final minute of the first quarter for either team to score, but tailback Blake Ewert crossed the goal line on a 3-yard rush to put the Raiders up 7-0.
Ewert had himself a game, as that wouldn’t be the only time he would hit the purple endzone turf. Ewert crossed the goal line three times and rushed for 173 yards for South Range.
The junior has battled the injury bug this season, but he shined when it mattered Friday.
“It’s the little things he’s been doing now,” Yeagley said. “He was injured there for a little while and he took his time to get healthy, and boy, he came back with a vengeance. He did a great job tonight.”
The Raiders continued to pound the rock for the rest of the first half, going into the locker room up 21-0. Ewert scored his second touchdown of the night from 30 yards out, then quarterback Billy Skripac popped in from a yard out.
South Range was set to receive the opening kickoff, but fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Pirates.
They took advantage of the opportunity as Brayden Richards drove down the field to score. The Raiders didn’t take too kindly to that however as 20 seconds later, Ewert somehow escaped a dogpile of Pirates and burst off for 65 yards and the score.
The Raiders tacked on two more scores in the third quarter 13 seconds apart from each other. Right after Aidan Dominguez tore through the defense for a 23-yard rushing touchdown, Perry fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
Then on the first play from scrimmage, Skripac hit a wide open JD Crouse for a 40-yard completely untouched score.
Perry would score once more before the Raiders capped off the game with a second Dominguez touchdown.
South Range is back to thinking about the next one as the Raiders will spend Thanksgiving week getting ready for their final four tilt against Liberty Benton.
Obviously they’re looking forward to spending the holiday together.
“We’re going to be practicing on Thanksgiving morning, and there’s nothing better than practicing on Thanksgiving morning,” Yeagley said. “We’re going to have a little fun, and we talked to them at halftime, saying that we’ve got to clean some things up. We’re not crisp and clean like we need to be to keep on going to the next level. We’ve got to refocus and do some things there, but like I said, I’m so proud of this team and again, it was a total team effort.
“These guys are a family. They really are. They fight for each other and they believe in each other and that’s who they’re playing for.”
The Black Friday showdown with the Tigers is set for 7 p.m. at Clyde High School.