Whitmer running back Zac Ryan dives for extra yardage against Perrysburg. He ran 17 times for 69 yards and one touchdown.
Coming off its Division I state runner-up football finish of 2012, Whitmer could hardly wait to get back in action in Friday night’s opener at Perrysburg’s Steinecker Stadium.
The Panthers got more of a test than perhaps they had planned on from the host Yellow Jackets, but eventually coasted to a 42-25 victory behind solid production from their new set of quarterbacks and running backs.
“A win’s a win,” Whitmer coach Jerry Bell said. “We told them at halftime, ‘Just win by one point.’ Obviously we made some mistakes. We’re young and we’ve got to overcome that.
“We weathered the storm early, and we weathered the storm late. I’m just happy we were able to come out with a victory against a good Perrysburg football team.”
Whitmer’s two marquee returnees also made a big impact, as 6-foot-4 wideout Chris Boykin caught six passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, and defensive back Marcus Elliott added a 29-yard TD off an interception.
PHOTO GALLERY: View more photos from the game
“We made some minor mistakes and some little things turned into huge plays,” Elliott said. “We’re going to have to fix that. But it’s a great feeling to get back out here. We want to get a repeat of last year, and we’re going to try hard to do it.”
In a wild first half, Whitmer stormed out to a 28-6 lead before Perrysburg tallied a pair of late second-quarter touchdowns to pull within 10 by halftime.
The Panthers’ short opening kickoff was not covered by the Yellow Jackets’ return team, the Panthers recovered on the Perrysburg 29, and quarterback Matt Winzeler (7-of-13 passing, 143 yards) found Boykin for a TD on the next play. Whitmer had a 7-0 lead just nine seconds into the game.
Panthers back Jamal Bell (nine carries, 76 yards) broke from the grasp of four potential Perrysburg tacklers and continued on for an 18-yard score.
But the Yellow Jackets would turn two Whitmer turnovers into eventual points before halftime.
Matt Mesker’s interception of Winzeler led to Mark Delas’ six-yard TD run to get Perrybsurg within 14-6 late in the first quarter.
The Panthers responded with a 95-yard scoring drive that took nine plays, the last being Bell’s 22-yard TD run 39 seconds into the second quarter.
And Elliott made it 28-6 when he intercepted a Gus Dimmerling pass and returned it for a score 9 minutes, 22 seconds before halftime.
Perrysburg QB Gus Dimmerling throws while under pressure by Whitmer’s Blake Bengela. Dimmerling rushed 26 times for 117 yards and passed for 179 yards.
Perrysburg and Dimmerling rallied back to gain momentum heading into halftime.
Dimmerling — Perrysburg’s chief offensive threat after their standout returnee at fullback (Delas) left with a left shoulder injury in the first quarter — finished with 26 rushes for 117 yards and was 14-of-26 passing for 179 yards.
“Dimmerling was phenomenal,” Bell said. “We were worried about him coming into the game because we saw so much resemblance between him and [Whitmer’s 2012 All-Ohio QB] Nick Holley, being able to run the football. He’s a playmaker.”
Dimmerling capped a 10-play, 58-yard drive by scoring on a nine-yard run with 2:22 left in the half, then impacted the game with the defensive gem.
He then picked off Panther QB Chase Bodeman and returned the ball 59 yards to the Whitmer 21 with just 21.4 seconds left in the half. Two plays later he hit Matthew Kaczinski on a 12-yard TD pass with only 6.7 seconds left before halftime.
Whitmer sandwiched two more TDs around one from Perrysburg in the third quarter, and the game closed with a scoreless final quarter.
“I didn’t like the mistakes,” Jackets coach Matt Kregel said. “You can’t give Whitmer three scores, and that was the difference in the ballgame. One was a tough break — when a lineman intercepts a screen pass on a twist. It happens. But the [opening] kickoff we didn’t recover, and the other interception [by Elliott] were just bad plays.”
Casino Stacker scored on a 41-yard pass from Winzeler, and Panther back Zac Ryan (17 carries, 69 yards) added a TD on a one-yard run.
Kadin Llewellyn scored the Jackets’ only second-half TD on a 37-yard pass from Dimmerling.
“Gus is a tough, tough kid, and we’re looking forward to two more years of Gus Dimmerling,” Kregel said of the junior.
Whitmer outgained Perrysburg 426-327 in total offense, including 224 yards passing.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.