PERRY TWP. The Perry Panthers didn’t have to look far when it was time to fill an open date on their 2012 football schedule.
Actually, all they had to do was look about three miles to the west to the Massillon Tigers.
Keith Boedicker has only been at Perry for three seasons, yet he realized quickly why the matchup between the Western Stark County schools was a no-brainer.
“Without question, I think the community looks forward to these kind of games,” Boedicker said. “Our people love it, and obviously, the Massillon people love it. (Massillon coach) Jason Hall and I are good friends, so it’s a natural fit.”
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Boedicker made that observation last month during the Panthers’ preseason preparations. Fast forward several weeks and the time for the teams’ first meeting since a 2006 first-round playoff game — won by Massillon, 41-20, at Perry Stadium — is here. The Panthers
(2-1) will host Massillon (2-1) before what’s expected to be an overflow crowd tonight. Kickoff is 7:30.
So, with the 13th meeting between the programs imminent (Massillon leads 11-2), have Boedicker’s feelings changed?
“These games are exciting to coach and prepare for,” Boedicker said earlier this week. “That’s why you do this, to coach and play in games like this, games that get a lot of media coverage and a lot of attention from both communities. If you can’t get excited for this one then you shouldn’t be playing or coaching in it.
“This is why you work so hard in the offseason and so hard during the season. It’s a great opportunity for both schools.”
Certainly, there’s been more build-up for this contest than any of Perry’s first three games against Akron East, Central Catholic and Dublin Coffman. As a coach, Boedicker isn’t a stranger to a big-game atmosphere. During his successful tenure at Nordonia, Boedicker led the Knights to the playoffs five times. Nordonia lost in the Division II state title game in 2002 and the Division II state semifinals in 2006.
With that kind of experience, one may have expected Boedicker to extol the importance of maintaining focus and not getting caught up in the kind of pregame hype that can detract from a team’s preparation. While he may have touched on that this week, the coach hasn’t made a huge deal out of the attention that this week’s game has generated.
“I’m not really worried about it,” Boedicker said. “It’s Massillon, and obviously, it’s a big game. But every game is a big game when you play in the Federal League. There’s hoopla because it’s Massillon and we haven’t played for a number of years, but it’s not like there’s a lot of familiarity between the programs because we haven’t played them in a while.
“There’s probably more familiarity between the communities than there is between the players on each team. We try not to get caught up in all that. But we’ll be excited to play, I can tell you that.”
Boedicker can be sure of his team’s excitement level come tonight at 7:30. He’d like to be just as sure of the Panthers’ execution level. He knows well enough that a repeat of last week’s mistakes against Coffman will likely lead to a similar result. The Shamrocks scored 33 straight points to pull away to a 40-7 win.
“We have to control the football and control the tempo of the game, there’s no question about that,” Boedicker said. “We have to limit our mistakes and play good hard-nosed football. We just need to execute better.”
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Less than 200 general admission tickets for Friday’s game will be on sale at the Perry ticket office Friday from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Some standing-room tickets will be available at the gate. Tickets are $6.