The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

October 31, 2013

Tip of iceberg at Perry

Bright present, brighter future for the Pirates

To Matt Rosati, this mission of his Perry Pirates — should they choose to accept it — is clearcut and simple.

And, yes, they do intend to accept it, “it” being a game at Chagrin Falls on Friday night that, bottom line, means this:

“If we win, we most likely host a first-round (playoff) game,” Rosati said. “If we lose, we most likely would be out.”

Well, there you have it.

If the Pirates (5-4, 3-3) can pull off the upset on the road against the state-ranked Tigers (7-2, 5-1), who are tied with Aurora (8-1, 5-1) atop the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division standings, would reach the playoffs for the fourth time in Rosati’s seven-season tenure at the helm.

Perry is coming off a 53-8 demolition of visiting Wickliffe last week at Alumni Stadium.

“We played very well in all aspects of the game,” Rosati said. “Defensively, it is the best we have played in a long time against a good offensive team.”

More of the same — and then some, most likely — will most definitely be needed Friday night at Chagrin Falls in the 24th matchup in the series since 1939. Perry leads in the previous 23 matches, 14-9, though the Tigers prevailed a year ago at Alumni Stadium, 56-16, with the Pirates’ last win in this clash being a 27-14 home triumph in 2008.

As you might expect, Rosati has a definite picture of the challenges Chagrin Falls will present Friday night.

“They are extremely well coached and very tough to beat,” he said. “They are very good on offense and even better on defense.

“They are a spread team but are 50-50 run/pass. On defense, they are a base 4-3 team.”

Then, there are the Tigers’ weapons.

“They have a lot of guys playing both ways and the most dangerous is Matt Iamarrino,” Rosati said. “He plays wide receiver and free safety. Mike Muday is a wide receiver-cornerback and Ed Shelley is a quarterback-running back-wide receiver-cornerback-kicker and he is excellent at all jobs.”

Rosati’s checklist to victory in Week 10 is thorough.

“First, field position,” he said. “We cannot give them a short field at all. Our special teams are really going to have to be great.

“Second, tempo. We must control the football and keep it out of their hands.

“No. 3, make big plays on offense and stop big plays on defense.  I know it sounds simple, but it really will be the difference between winning and losing.”

While not full strength, it is what it is, Rosati said.

“It would be great to have Billy Miller and Mason Martin go, but it was not meant to be for them this year,” he said. “We have done a good job of adjusting without them and have become better for the future because of it.”

It’s been a productive season, no matter the outcome Friday night for the Pirates this fall, having already surpassed their win total in each of the past two seasons when they won four games.

“It has gone as I have hoped, to this point,” Rosati said. “We are in position with a win to host a playoff game. We are developing into a very good team at the right time and 18 of our 22 starters will be returning next year.  

“We need to beat one more playoff-caliber team and we will be right on schedule to do some really great things as a team for the next few years. This would be a great start to a good run.”

In the big-picture scheme of things, the best is yet to come for most of the Pirates, Rosati said.

“We need to develop some more depth,” he said. “We will have a very fast, physical, experienced team ready to go next year. I hope we can get some playoff experience for them now because it will mean so much for next year.”

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