Perrysburg bruising running back Mark Delas sat on the sidelines with a grimace on his face and an ice pack on his knee as halftime neared, but the formidable runner was just getting started against cross-river rival Maumee.
Delas, a 6-foot-3 and 240 pound force, limped to the locker room with Perrysburg holding a 15-point lead at home Friday night.
Delas had already rushed for 117 yards and two scores at the half. Yet Delas, who also starts at middle linebacker, returned to lead the Yellow Jackets to a convincing 55-26 victory.
Delas rushed for 208 yards on 22 carries (9.5 yards per carry) as Perrysburg reclaimed the Ding Dong Bell from its archival.
Delas scored on runs of 16, 21, 1, and 5 yards. He also picked up a fumble and returned it 18 yards for another score.
“I can't feel my left leg right now, but it doesn't really matter. We won. I'd cut it off if I have to,” said a hobbled Delas after the game. “I just landed funny on it. We don't know what happened.”
Senior quarterback Steve Slocum posted another remarkable performance, finishing with a team-high 231 rushing yards. Slocum also passed for 51 yards and a TD. He scored the game's first points on an 85-yard run.
Delas said he could not bend his leg which was going numb.
“But I was coming back. I wanted to keep playing so bad,” Delas said. “I toughed it out for my team. It was great to get the win.”
Maumee had captured the bell, the longstanding trophy in the rivalry, last season with a 46-20 win on its home field.
“This feels great especially after that tough game last year,” Delas said.
Perrysburg (8-2 overall, 6-1 Northern Lakes League) amassed 554 yards of offense, including 503 yards on the ground. The Yellow Jackets also claimed a spot in the Division II playoffs for just the second time in school history.
“It's huge emotions because this team has done such a great job of getting better each week,” Perrysburg coach Matt Kregel said. “This is one of the best wins we've ever had for this program.”
Kregel said Delas has rushed for over 200 yards in three games this year.
“He's unbelievable, and he's come a long way with the focus and the toughness and the things that make him a great player,” Kregel said.
Maumee (6-4, 4-3) finished with 259 yards of offense, including 165 passing yards from Steve Duby, who also rushed for two scores. Andrew Schultz ran for a team-high 51 yards and scored twice.
The Panthers had pulled within nine points on Duby's 31-yard strike to Dominique King with 7:45 left in the third. Maumee then forced a three and out and had the ball at the Yellow Jacket 26.
On fourth and two, Duby threw a pass to Sean McGovern but Perrysburg stopped him short.
With the sudden momentum shift, Perrysburg marched 74 yards on seven plays. Delas had a 15-yard run to set up Slocum's five-yard TD score that gave the Yellow Jackets a 42-26 lead.
Maumee coach John Boles lamented his play call after the game.
“I really second guess what I did. I probably reached for too big of a play instead of just trying to get the first down,” he said. “But credit to them. They stopped us. We got worn down once we lost that emotional surge.”
Kregel said he could tell all week his players would respond in key moments.
“That was huge there,” Kregel said of the stand. “Our kids won't lay down in a situation like that. That was the back breaker.”
Perrysburg scored on the second play from scrimmage as Slocum took a sweep right and scampered 85 yards down the sideline to score just 50 seconds into the game.
Maumee's Jamiri Bennett came up with an interception to set up his team's first score as Schultz scored on a five-yard run.
Delas capped a quick 1:33 Yellow Jackets drive (six plays, 69 yards) on a 16-yard run to give Perrysburg a 14-6 lead. Delas then scooped up a fumble on a bobbled snap on a punt and scored from 18-yards out for a 21-6 Perrysburg edge at the end of the first quarter.
Delas' 21-yard TD run made it 28-6 but Duby hooked up with McGovern on a bubble screen that went 36 yards for a score.
But Slocum countered with a 13-yard strike to Nate Patterson on a 13-yard score for a 35-13 lead. Duby scored on a sneak with one second in the half to make it 35-20.
Maumee (6-3) had not been mathematically eliminated, but the Panthers needed a win and a tremendous amount of help to make the playoffs.
Delas scored the last two TDs for the the Yellow Jackets (7-2) who controlled their own destiny.
“All I care about is that we're in and we'll play anybody right now,” Kregel said. “We're rolling.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.