When USO last played Perry, 1 yard separated it from the goal line. Four times, USO ran the ball up the middle in an attempt to score the tying touchdown.
Four times, the Commodores kept USO out of the end zone for a 12-6 victory.
When USO (5-2) plays Perry (7-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cupples Stadium on the South Side in a rematch of that Oct. 19 regular-season game, the City League championship will be on the line.
“It means a lot,” USO senior quarterback Akil Young said. “We came so close and ended up so short. We felt like we left the game in the refs' hands. We want to play harder so it doesn't come down to the last call to determine the game.”
Young could play a major role in helping USO — a second-year cooperative agreement between University Prep, Science and Technology and Obama Academy — try to defend its City League championship.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder led the City in passing with 1,416 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, including a 357-yard, three-touchdown performance in the 46-6 victory over Brashear last week in a City semifinal.
Young completed 11 of 28 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown against Perry. That included a 26-yard scoring pass to Marcus Johnson, a talented junior who has 27 receptions for 497 yards and four touchdowns.
But Young believes USO got greedy in trying to take too many shots downfield instead of concentrating on its bread and butter of short and intermediate passes.
“He does a very nice job. He throws an accurate ball, throws the intermediate ball very, very well for a high school quarterback,” Perry coach Bill Gallagher said. “When he scrambles, he keeps his eyes downfield. He does a good job of finding the open receiver. They put a lot on his shoulders, and he does very well.”
Young said USO players were not only playing with heavy hearts against Perry last month, only six days after USO junior offensive-defensive tackle Ne'Ondre Harbour was shot and killed in Garfield, but they missed Harbour's presence on both sides of the ball.
“I feel like we were caught up in all of the emotion for our teammate,” Young said. “We were thinking if he was there, it might have been different. He was a big body on the line. Not having him hurt.”
Gallagher, however, is expecting another close game. The Commodores have a dual-threat quarterback in senior Ahmed Turner, who ran for two touchdowns against USO, and a 1,000-yard rusher in senior Curtis Edmonds.
Perry's defense, led by a tough front four, is allowing only 5.5 points per game against City League opponents this season. None scored more than 14 points.
“Our goal is always to stop the other team from scoring,” Gallagher said. “We don't have any specific number. We feel like if we stop them from scoring and we can score, that's our best chance of winning.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7812.
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