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Perryville upsets Kennett in district opener
Flentge scored the game-winner midway through the fourth
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- The Pirates did it to the Kennett Indians again.
For the second year in a row, Perryville shook off its underdog role and handed the Tribe a loss in the Class 3 District 1 opener for both teams. The Pirates emerged with the 9-6 win Friday night at Pirates Stadium.
"We've got to learn how to win football games," Kennett coach Kenneth "Red" Riedinger said. "This was a football game we should have won. We've got to learn how to win close football games."
Of Kennett's five losses, three are by six points or fewer.
It was the first win of the season for the Pirates (1-7), who used a 31-12 win over Kennett last fall to jump start an unlikely run to the playoffs.
"It was a big win," Perryville coach Keith Winkler said. "Coming into districts, to start off 1-0 is a big deal. With two teams getting in, you kind of control a little bit of your fate. Our young men fought hard."
Garrett Flentge's 29-yard touchdown run with 5:42 left in the game put Perryville ahead to stay. The Pirates defense made it stand up.
Perryville's defense was decisive Friday night, limiting the Tribe (3-5) to six points after allowing 242 points to its first seven opponents.
Kennett seemed in control for much of the second half, holding the ball for almost the entire third period and taking a 6-3 lead when Jimmy Gooden caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Adam Grantham with 46 seconds left in the quarter.
The Indians kept possession of the ball when Andy Lack recovered the ensuing onside kick in Perryville territory, but went three-and-out and had to punt.
It was the Pirates' second big stop of the second half, coming after Perryville stopped an 8 1/2 minute drive by the Tribe at the 5-yard line to open the second half.
"That was huge," Winkler said. "We kind of dropped our heads -- they were kind of running it down our throats -- and we made some big stops there. ... The kids buckled down, lit a little fire and kept firing."
Kennett forced a three-and-out of its own to again get the ball back inside Pirates territory, but Cale Regelsperger came up with the interception to set up his team at its own 38 to start the game-winning drive.
"That big interception over there in the fourth quarter really turned momentum," Winkler said. "Our young men seemed to thrive on that. We started winning the battle in the trenches again."
After a pair of penalties got the Pirates a first down near midfield, Perryville pounded it to running back Jeff Baughman on five of the next seven plays to set up Flentge's game-winner.
The Pirates got on the board to open the game by driving inside the Kennett 10 before stalling. Andrew Martin's 27-yard field goal opened the scoring, which is where it stood until Gooden's scoring catch late in the third quarter.
One key to Perryville's success Friday was its recently implemented wishbone offense.
"We're trying to find something that we can become consistent at," Winkler said. "We've run a lot of things this year looking for some consistency. We felt going back into the wishbone would probably give us the best chance at this ballgame right now."
The loss spoiled a career night for Grantham, who finished 9 of 15 passing for 171 yards. Gooden caught five passes for 85 yards, Cameron Wallace caught two for 57 yards and Andy Lack caught two for 29 yards.
"We did a great job throwing the ball and getting the matchups we want," Riedinger said. "That really should have opened up our offense."
Kameron Jackson led the Kennett rushing attack with 40 yards on 16 carries.
Flentge led Perryville with 66 yards on 15 rushes, while Baughman added 38 yards on 15 totes.
Kennett outgained the Pirates 208-139 in total offense.
The Pirates travel to Dexter next week, while Kennett hosts New Madrid County Central.
NMCC defeated Dexter 48-14 in the other District 1 game Friday.