Aaron M. smith
News Herald Sports Editor
PORT CLINTON – Port Clinton quarterback Joe Higgins ducked under the line and ran through a gaping hole. He squirted toward the sideline untouched and sprinted toward the end zone, out-running the entire Perkins defense.
One person, however, stayed stride-for-stride with Higgins.
It was Port Clinton coach Toby Hammond.
With the Redskins trailing 12-0 in the second quarter, Higgins scored on an explosive 64-yard scamper and the normally reserved Hammond raced the sidelines cheering him on.
"That run was huge," Hammond said. "That was big. It woke us up."
It certainly did.
The Redskins scored 24 unanswered points to upend Perkins 24-12. The win was the first in the Sandusky Bay Conference for Port Clinton in 21 games. Their last conference victory was a 20-15 defeat of St. Mary Central Catholic in September of 2001.
"I'm just so happy for the kids," Hammond said. "I'm also happy for the parents and the community. They haven't had this in a while. These kids have been beat down for a while and we came out and executed well."
Josh Wierzba again was dominating for the Redskins (2-3, 1-1), rushing 28 times for 135 yards. He also hauled in two passes for 57 yards, one of which was a screen pass he took 51 yards for a touchdown late in the first half to give Port Clinton a 14-12 lead.
Billy Runyon, a menace on defense for Port Clinton, credited Wierzba for getting the offense going.
"He's a beast," Runyon said. "He's a heck of a runner."
Runyon, who got some carries early in the season, did his damage on the defensive side of the ball. The 5-foot-8 senior consistently found himself in the Perkins' backfield, disrupting pass plays and stopping runs for losses.
On one pass play, Runyon exploded through the line and chased down Perkins quarterback Dawson Taylor. He snagged Taylor by the shoulder pads, completely stopping his momentum. Taylor's feet flew in the air and eventually landed 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
"I just see the ball and I go for it," Runyon said smiling, still trying to hold in his emotion. "That was fun. I just go out and do my job. Our defense had a few mistakes early, but we got things going. We weren't going to let them score anymore."
Runyon is familiar with Perkins and also familiar with being on the losing end of games with the Pirates. His last victory, Runyon recalls, was "sometime in middle school."
"They've pretty much dominated us for a while," he said. "This one felt good. This is one of the best games I've been a part of."
The Port Clinton defense had trouble defending Perkins' reverse in the first half. The Pirates' Kirk Salinski scored on a 47-yard dash in the first quarter on the play and later scampered 23 yards that looked identical to his first run.
Port Clinton made adjustments and the big-play Pirates (0-4, 0-2) would not strike again.
Instead, the Redskin offense took over.
Higgins and Wierzba set off the fireworks in the first half, and were the only two Redskins to gain a yard in the first 24 minutes. But in the second half, Redskin teammates helped out. Big passes to senior Derek Scott (40 yards) and freshman Jared Cox (19-yards) set up Port Clinton scores.
The special teams of Port Clinton was also impressive. After missing a field goal and an extra point in a 7-6 opening loss to Woodmore, junior Josh Parsons was automatic on Friday. He was good on all three extra points and then drilled the nail in the coffin with a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
"He stepped it up tonight," Hammond said. "He was big."
For this particular Friday night, the entire team was big. It rallied from behind and dominated a game it desperately needed to win.
"I'm so proud of these kids," Hammond said. "They work so hard and it's nice to get this one at home. We're going to celebrate this one for the weekend, but then we got Huron coming to town."
Yes, that Huron. The three-time defending SBC champions.
But, for the first time in several years, the Redskins are riding a winning streak into the annual battle with the Tigers.