When Shawn Perry carried the ball last night -- and he did many times -- the first defender to hit him rarely made the tackle.
Even in the third overtime, Perry didn't go down easily. After Seneca Valley's defense came through with a fourth-down stop, Perry scored his fifth touchdown of the game on a six-yard run to the right, starting a raucous celebration as the 11th-ranked Screaming Eagles defeated No. 10 Urbana, 45-39, in a Maryland 3A West Region semifinal in front of 3,000 in Germantown.
Perry's final carry capped a thrilling game between two teams always in the championship hunt.
Urbana rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half only to see Seneca Valley take a 25-18 lead on Perry's third touchdown. With less than three minutes remaining, though, the Hawks drove to tie the score at 25 on Brad Thompson's five-yard touchdown catch with two seconds remaining.
The teams then traded scores in overtime, including Seneca Valley quarterback T.J. Radzilowski's three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andre Smith on fourth down to start the second overtime. Urbana quarterback Mike Murray responded with his fifth touchdown pass of the game, a 10-yarder to tight end Mike Hall to force a third overtime period, in which each team gets a series of downs from the 10-yard line.
The excitement brought to mind the teams' epic 2001 meeting, when visiting Urbana won, 29-23, in triple overtime en route to winning its fourth consecutive state title. Urbana Coach Joe Polce said his team watched a tape of that game on Thursday as motivation for last night's game. The 2001 game also has provided motivation for Seneca Valley -- a sign in the school's locker room asks: "What condition will you be in in the third overtime?"
"I was an assistant coach on that team, and that was a painful loss," Seneca Valley Coach Fred Kim said, fighting cramps and pain that he said was the result of screaming throughout much of the latter part of the game. "We said that would never happen again, that we would be in better shape."
Perry, a junior, never seemed to tire despite carrying 35 times for 189 yards. He regularly bounced off tacklers and ran out of the grasp of other defenders. Midway through the third quarter, Perry seemed to put Seneca Valley (10-1) in control when his 32-yard touchdown run made it 18-3 in the third quarter. But Urbana (9-2) rallied time and again in a game that seemed like it might never end.
However, after Urbana's fourth-down try failed in the third overtime, when Smith and Jourdan Brooks got a strong pass rush, Perry had enough to win the game. He carried twice to the left for four yards, then took a toss right, cut inside and rolled into the end zone.
"He's awful special, a legitimate superstar," Kim said. "He's as good a back as anyone in the state."