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Peru, Concordia Lutheran vie for sectional title Friday night

TITLE TEST: Peru reached just its fifth sectional title game in school history with its win against Heritage on Friday night, earning the chance to win its second sectional title against No. 11 Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran at Bengal Memorial Stadium. The Tigers won a single-game sectional in 1982 against New Haven and have reached sectional finals in 1998, 2000 and most recently 2014.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Championship season has arrived in football across the state of Indiana as 48 sectional titles will be awarded Friday night.

IHSAA Football Class 3A Sectional No. 27 will be decided at Bengal Memorial Stadium as Peru looks for its second-ever sectional title against No. 11 Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

The Cadets, having already made one trip to Miami County this postseason when they knocked out Maconaquah 42-21 in the opening round of sectional play, had a tougher time getting the better of Norwell last week, needing a late field goal to defeat the Knights 17-14.

Peru head coach Romison Saint-Louis, whose team defeated Heritage 37-7 to reach the sectional final, said the contest at Concordia was scrappy and saw the defenses take charge on the field.

“We looked at it as two good teams that played a good game and matched up well with each other,” Saint-Louis said about the semifinal between Concordia Lutheran and Norwell. “Obviously we were watching more along the lines of what Concordia did but what we did notice is that Norwell’s defensive backs put themselves in good positions to be successful and made some plays on the ball.

“Concordia still made their plays and it was a good defensive game from both teams. We have to try and play our game the best we can this week.”

Friday will mark the third meeting between the two schools in postseason play with the Tigers winning the first matchup in 1998 42-28 on the way to a sectional final appearance while the Cadets won the more recent meeting in 2005 52-34.

Concordia has won four sectional titles, the most recent in 2016 as part of its 3A State Championship run, while Peru has won a single sectional title back in 1982.

Preparations for the final this week have been moving along according to Saint-Louis with three key individuals being monitored with injuries going into this Friday’s game.

Winger/safety Daunte Majors has not played since the North Miami game in week eight while quarterback/defensive back Michael Chandler and center/middle linebacker Sam Makowski both left Friday’s game against Heritage.

“(Tuesday) we kept most of them out, then did a little bit more (Wednesday) and will add a little bit more on Thursday to be ready for Friday,” Saint-Louis said about his injured players. “We have a couple of guys that are going to be gameday decisions but hopefully everyone is all good to go.

“Everyone is making improvements across the board and we’re looking forward to having all of them available to play.”

Quarterback play will be a key area to watch Friday for Peru as the Concordia defense has intercepted six passes in two postseason games.

Saint-Louis said the Cadet defense, tested by the spread-heavy formations in the Summit Athletic Conference, was used to being under fire and positioned themselves well on each play.

“(Concordia’s) defensive backs definitely get a lot of reps during the season,” Saint-Louis said about the Saints’ secondary. “They have some pretty good athletes in the defensive back positions and while they do send some pressure here and there to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands, their secondary guys are savvy and know how to play their positions, staying on top of things then going and getting the ball.

“(Jalen Vanderbosch) is a good athlete at free safety and we’ll try our best to keep the ball away from him.”

On the other side of the ball, Concordia has thrown for 462 yards in the postseason though with mixed results as quarterback Brandon Davis threw a pair of touchdown passes against Maconaquah but had three interceptions against Norwell.

The Knights did well to bottle up the Cadet offense and Saint-Louis said keeping them one dimensional would be important this week.

“(Concordia) has a good passing game and they love to pass,” Saint-Louis said. “They have threats at the receiver position with a lot of the same guys in their secondary also playing at receiver.

“They also can run the ball and while they’re not balanced, they’re fairly close and have the players up front to do both. We have to stop the run and control the pass as much as we can on Friday night.”

Peru did a solid job of keeping Heritage’s running game in check, giving up 75 yards on 23 carries at the expense of 203 passing yards, though many of those came late in Friday’s win.

Saint-Louis said the team accomplished its primary goal and was not as worried about the passing yards given up last week, adding the team would have several different options to defend with against Concordia.

“With Heritage, we focused on the run and coverage-wise, we were not in multiple looks,” Saint-Louis said about the previous week. “They knew what we were in but we didn’t really get out of it as we were focused on stopping the run.

“They did hurt us with some things in the passing game; we could have adjusted and been fine but we chose not to as we didn’t rep it that much during practice. This week, we’ll have multiple coverages to get in and out of, trying to confuse (Davis) and put our kids in a position to be successful.”

While playing for a title was an important aspect to Friday’s game, Saint-Louis said the team continued to look at each game as a chance to earn another week together.

“There’s a lot of different ways to look at this week,” Saint-Louis said. “The way we look at it is, because it’s postseason play, whether it’s for a championship or not, if you don’t win, you’re done.

“Our goal is to try and get another week of play. We don’t want to make this game too big, even though it is a big game, but we do want to focus on our job this week.

“It’s a team game and on Friday the best team is going to win,” Saint-Louis added. “That may not necessarily be the team with the most athletes but the best team as a whole and hopefully that’s us this week.”

After an 0-10 first season, reaching a sectional final is a significant step for the Peru football program, one that Saint-Louis said was possible not just this year but also in the future as the team attempts to bring its second-ever title home.

“It’s definitely good to be in this game and we’re proud of the kids, the staff and the community,” Saint-Louis said. “This is the fifth time in school history Peru is playing in a football sectional final and it’s a big deal.

“When I came here as a first-year coach, my vision was that sectional finals and deep runs in postseason play are going to be the norm. We have the kids needed to get it rolling and we’re happy for them with the way they’ve worked their tails off, committed to weights, committed to the offseason and those things are paying off.

“You have to put in the work and you also have to have a little luck,” Saint-Louis added. “You have to have some things go your way and we’re aware of that part of the game, but if we do the things we do well and control what we can control, hopefully we can bring a championship home to the community.”