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Improved Pirates will try to tackle Herky tonight

Friday, September 17, 2004

Perryville will face last year's league champion.

By Jeremy Joffray ~ Southeast Missourian

Despite a tough loss to a strong Fort Zumwalt North team last week, the tide definitely seems to be turning for the Perryville football program.

The Pirates already picked up their first opening week victory since 1998, when they went 9-2.

Tonight, Perryville has a chance to prove whether its name belongs in conversation with the Mississippi Area Football Conference White Division championship. The Pirates (1-1) will host defending division champion Herculaneum (2-0) at 7 p.m.

"We feel like we are on the right path for no other reason than the commitment these kids are making," Pirates coach Rick Chastain said.

Herculaneum has won 14 of its last 15 games, including a 10-0 regular season last year. Perryville (1-1) nearly put a blemish in the Blackcats' record last season, losing the season-opening meeting with Herculaneum 24-17.

"We played them the very first week last year, and we felt good about the way we played them," Chastain said. "This year, we feel like we can play with them."

Despite six interceptions, the Pirates had a chance to tie Zumwalt North last week in the final minute of a 29-27 loss.

Herculaneum has forced six turnovers in its two wins this season.

"Obviously, if we can cut down on mistakes we'll give ourselves a chance," Chastain said. "But the game will be won in the trenches."

Perryville's line has opened holes for top back Matt Unterreiner, who has rushed for more than 300 yards this season. Unterreiner also has scored on a punt return, has two rushing touchdowns and threw a 71-yard touchdown pass last week.

While Unterreiner's numbers stick out among the area leaders, Perryville preaches a team-first concept.

"Our whole senior group has done a good job leading our football program," Chastain said.

This year's matchup with Herculaneum should have a different feel, as the Blackcats are under new leadership. First-year Herculaneum coach Bill Sucharski has brought a revamped air attack to the program. Even with more emphasis on the pass, Herculaneum is led offensively by running back John Lyons, who has five touchdowns and 240 yards on the ground this season.

"They just have a very well-rounded football team," Chastain said.

One factor the Pirates should have in their favor is a revved up fan base. The Pirates have drawn strong, vocal crowds in their first two home games, according to Chastain. After tonight's home game, Perryville will play five of its next six games on the road.

"I can't say enough about the outpour the other night," Chastain said. "The stands were filled."

jjoffray@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 171


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