Bluejay season ends with loss to host Wildcats

CARLISLE, IOWA — Carlisle entered Friday’s Class 4A District 5 game with visiting Perry in need of a big win, hoping a large margin would help secure a playoff spot.

The Wildcats (5-4, 3-2) achieved their goal, bursting to a 35-0 lead in slightly less than 10 minutes of play en route to a 70-6 win over the Bluejays (0-9, 0-5).

“It was a tough way to finish the season, but credit to Carlisle,” Perry head coach Bryce Pierce said. “They showed why they are are on the top teams in the state in rushing offense, and they are very good at it. They have a great combination of physicality and speed.”

Carlisle finished the regular season tied for third in 4A in rushing touchdowns with 33 and was fourth in total ground yards with 2,467 on 350 carries, an average of over seven yards per rush.

That ground game found huge running lanes in the Perry defense and produced 342 yards and nine TDs on only 21 carries, a clip of over 16 yards per tote.

Jonathan Dunn, the fourth leading rusher in 4A, scored three times and gained 140 yards on only six carries, with six other Carlisle runners finding the end zone one time each.

The scoring started when Liam Smith returned the opening kick 69 yards for a score before booting the first of his 10 PAT kicks.

The Bluejay offense was held to a series of three-and-out possessions, with the Wildcats scoring in just a few snaps each time they had the ball on simple power runs to open a 35-0 lead. The first quarter TD runs of 37, 16, 68 and 23 yards, in order, were followed by TD runs of 13, 4 and 4 to put the halftime score at 56-0.

Perry trailed, 70-0, in the third quarter before earning their first pair of first downs and having the ball on the Wildcat side of the field.

A bright moment for the guests came with 7:15 to play when Cayden Widen made a hard run off left tackle and bulled his way to pay dirt from four yards out. The TD was the first of his senior year.

“It was great getting on the board again, especially with a senior, Cayden, doing it in his final game while three senior linemen led the way down the field,” Pierce said.

Widen finished with 26 yards and a score on 10 carries, with Jeremiah Cregeen adding 13 hard-earned yards on 11 carries.

Quarterback Cayden Heck was 2-of-12 passing for 32 yards while being intercepted twice. Gavin Hegstrom caught one pass for 20 yards, with Holden Smith having a 12-yard reception.

Cregeen had five total tackles and Gavin Hegstrom three for the Bluejay defense.

While finishing the season winless, Perry in truth faced one of the most brutal schedules in all of 4A, especially in district play. Class 4A had six six-team divisions for a total of 36 teams, of which 16 earned playoff spots. Each district sent their 1-2 teams to the postseason, with the remaining four earning at-large bids based on RPI. Two of those four came from District 5.

“Our kids got to play some of the best teams in the state the whole season,” Pierce noted. “Our seniors will remember that for a long time.”

The Power Index proves the point Pierce made, with Indianola 4th in 4A and 22nd among 332 teams in all classes. Bondurant-Farrar was 6th in 4A and 31st statewide, with Norwalk 9/51 and Carlisle 11/59.

“We made progress this season as a program and are excited about what is still to come for Perry football,” Pierce said.

The coach has reason to be optimistic, with the middle school programs having successes, especially a 3-2 eighth grade team, while the youth program has also boasted much success with their largest participation numbers in several years.

District assignments will remain unchanged for 2022, with the next alterations by the IAHSAA scheduled for January of 2024.