Dominant defense leads Perry-Lecompton back to Class 3A semifinals

photo by: Courtesy photo

Perry-Lecompton's football team poses with a sectional plaque after a 49-14 win over LaCygne-Prairie View HS at PLHS on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. The Kaws are one win away from a second-straight trip to the Class 3A state championship game.

Perry-Lecompton’s football team is one win away from making program history.

A win over Holton in Friday’s Class 3A semifinal matchup would advance PLHS to its second consecutive trip to the state title game. The Kaws, who were a Class 3A runner-up a season ago, earned a 28-14 road win over Holton on Sept. 18.

Kickoff for the rematch is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at PLHS, and Perry-Lecompton is well aware of what is at stake.

“It would mean a lot,” senior quarterback/defensive back Thad Metcalfe said. “Just making that history on that level would be really fantastic.”

There are too many reasons to list for what has been behind another deep postseason run by the Kaws, who are 10-1 and have won four in a row since a 10-0 defeat to Topeka Hayden on Oct. 16. But the biggest key has been the play of the PLHS defense.

Rock Creek’s 22-point effort in the postseason opener is the most points Perry-Lecompton has surrendered in a single game in 2020. Other than that contest, PLHS has not given up more than two touchdowns in a game this year.

For the season, the Kaws are allowing an average of 9.54 points per game even though they have only forced one shutout.

“It’s a group thing,” PLHS head coach Mike Paramore said. “Football is a great team game and playing great team defense shows that. Every guy does his job and every guy plays fast and wants to get around the ball and do what they are supposed to do in order to make sure we are successful.”

Perry-Lecompton only lost five seniors from last year’s team, so it returned a lot of key contributors on the defensive side of the ball. The Kaws have held six different opponents to one touchdown or less this season.

“Last year we were an outstanding defense, too, and that is really what helped propel us last year,” Metcalfe said. “This year, we have taken a step up and just kept growing and trusting what our defensive scheme is each week.”

It all starts with a sensational senior tandem of linebackers in Ryley Besler and Hayden Robb. Besler leads the team with 119 total tackles, which equates to an average of 10.8 tackles per game. He’s recorded 67 solo stops and 11.5 tackles for loss in his final campaign.

Robb is just as dominant, producing a total of 115 tackles (10.5 stops per game) this fall. He has 65 solo stops and 10 tackles for loss. Robb has also forced four fumbles and recovered one fumble.

Senior defensive lineman Sean Urban helps set the tone in the trenches. He has 39 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss. Urban has notched two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for PLHS.

Metcalfe, Jackson Folks, Dawson Williams and Hunter Hess all have more than 50 tackles during their respective senior campaigns. Folks is third on the team with 98 stops, while Metcalfe has 77 tackles.

That level of balance should help highlight Perry-Lecompton’s mentality of flying to the ball as a defensive unit.

“We got a bunch of guys that love to play the game,” Paramore said. “We just have a bunch of great kids. They come out and they practice hard and they pay attention.”

That commitment in practice allows Perry-Lecompton to adjust defensive schemes based on a particular opponent. The Kaws understand that they can’t have the same game plan every single week and are willing to tweak their plan of attack depending on what the opponent prefers to do.

Fortunately for Perry-Lecompton, it should have a good idea of that for its upcoming opponent. PLHS earned a 28-14 win over Holton in Week 3 on Sept. 18. That remains the only blemish on the resume for the Wildcats, who are 9-1 entering this week’s matchup.

“I expect our team to go out and continue to perform like we have all season,” Metcalfe said. “We really pride ourselves on our defense and being physical. So I expect us to keep doing what we have done all season.”

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