It was a signature game, and the name signed all over it was that of Gus Dimmerling.
The Perrysburg senior quarterback, coming off a superb season, picked up where he left off by torching the host Whitmer Panthers 48-34 nonleague victory Friday night in the season opener.
Dimmerling set the tone from the outset, marching the Yellow Jackets 67 yards on just four plays and finding the end zone on the game’s first possession.
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After he completed his first three passes for 60 yards, Dimmerling scored on a seven-yard keeper, and the Yellow Jackets led 7-0 just 58 seconds into the game.
“That was huge,” Dimmerling said. “Our coaches were talking all week about how we had to start out strong. Last year we didn’t start off strong against them, and that killed us.
“I made it a goal to come out and have a strong first drive and set the tone for the rest of the game. The first few drives really brought our confidence. When we play with confidence, we just can’t be stopped.”
When it was over, Dimmerling had completed 21 of 29 passes for 254 yards and one touchdown, plus he ran 22 times for 147 yards and four scores from 7, 1, 51, and 1 yard.
“He’s not bad, is he?” said Perrysburg coach Matt Kregel. “He’s a tough kid. He started cramping in the third quarter and played through it and just came up with big play after big play.
“You’ve got to let Gus do his thing. He does it on the run, and he’s something else.”
Ahead just 21-14 at halftime despite outplaying the Panthers decisively, the Yellow Jackets (1-0) blew things open with a 27-point third quarter that was keyed by a successful onside kick to start the half.
Dimmerling scored on a one-yard run for a 28-14 lead, and Zach Honsberger followed with a 16-yard touchdown run to make it 34-14.
After Whitmer responded with a three-yard scoring run by backup QB Shue Sanders, the red-hot Jacket offense went up 41-20 on Dimmerling’s 51-yard touchdown sprint with 4 minutes, 5 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Panthers answered with quarterback Chase Bodeman’s 50-yard scoring pass to Brendan Larkin, but Perrysburg had time for one more touchdown before the third quarter ended, as Dimmerling ran in from a yard out for a commanding 48-26 lead entering the final quarter.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Whitmer coach Jerry Bell said of Dimmerling. “He’s the catalyst of their team, and he stepped up and made plays all night long. They’ve got one whale of a football team over there.”
Whitmer did make things interesting late, getting a a 12-yard touchdown run from Bodeman (16 carries, 98 yards) plus a two-point conversion 1:29 into the fourth quarter, but a key defensive stop by the Jackets’ defense ended the threat.
The Panthers had a fourth-and-8 situation from the Perrysburg 10, but Jamal Bell was tackled inches short of the first down, denying Whitmer a chance to get within a touchdown with 4:40 remaining.
After Perrysburg had grabbed its early 7-0 lead, Whitmer recovered a fumble by Jackets running back Josh Haynes at the Jackets’ 34, then capitalized four plays later on Bodeman’s four-yard TD run with 6:11 left in the first quarter.
Perrysburg responded instantly as Seth Durham took Travis Nimigean’s ensuing kickoff 87 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Whitmer knotted things again with 12 seconds left in the first quarter after taking advantage of a short field after a Perrysburg snap sailed over the head of punter Ryan Smith.
Starting at the Jackets’ 27, three plays later Bell (nine carries, 45 yards) ran right for a seven-yard TD. But Perrysburg took a 21-14 lead to halftime, thanks to an eight-play, 76-yard drive led by Dimmerling, who capped it 2:26 into the second quarter on a two-yard TD pass to Scott Freeman (10 catches, 119 yards).
Perrysburg topped Whitmer 443-340 in total offense.
Bodeman was just 6-of-21 passing for 75 yards. Sophomore Malik Moore rushed 11 times for 69 yards for the Panthers.
“At the end of the night, we just didn’t make plays when we needed to,” coach Bell said. “We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities. They beat us offensively, had a good game plan against defensively, and they beat in the special teams.”