CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – As Kenwood High’s football team warmed up on the field in Nashville, about to play Hillsboro in the first round of the Class A playoffs last month, someone for Hillsboro asked in the pressbox if the Knights’ quarterback was any good.
“Just watch his feet” someone replied.
About 25 minutes later, Perry faced three Hillsboro defenders taking dead-aim at him as he faced a fourth-and-8 inside the Burros territory. Perry took jab-step to his left, and quickly spun 360-degrees and began running right before finding teammate Chris Jackson streaking down the field for a 36-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 6-6 midway through the first quarter.
Anyone who has seen Perry play or played against him has stories similar to that. After helping Kenwood secure its third straight Class 5A playoff appearance this past season, Perry was named The Leaf-Chronicle All Area Football Player of the Year.
“It was a great senior year but we wanted more out of it,” Perry said, alluding to his team’s loss to Hillsboro in that playoff game. “We were looking to prove people wrong. I think people may have felt that our team wasn’t quite good enough to get back to the playoffs or make a run in the playoffs. We proved them wrong, getting there, but we wanted to do more damage. We didn’t get that chance though.”
Hillsboro would go on to play in the 5A state title game, eventually losing to Knoxville West. In Kenwood’s last three playoff appearances, the team that has beaten the Knights has gone on to either win the state championship or play in the game. Henry County (2013) and Beech (2012) won the 5A title.
“Kenwood has always had talent,” Perry said. “We’ve always had skill players who can make plays and score touchdowns. But we haven’t always been consistent and we’ve been through some coaches since I’ve been here.”
Perry has been through three to be exact. His freshman year was former coach Brett Bauer’s final season. Perry’s sophomore year saw Kevin Goltra step in to lead the Knights but that lasted just one season. The past two years have been under the mentorship of Brian Beaubien.
“Coach Beau made us feel that he was there for the program,” Perry said. “So we bought into what he was teaching us. I think it takes time to develop trust with players who have been through a lot of coaching changes. Sometimes you don’t know if the new coach will be around longer than a year so it’s hard to buy into what they are telling you. But we knew from the start that coach Beau was here for us.”
And Perry performed for his coach. The senior quarterback ran for more than 1,600 yards and threw for another 830 to lead the Knights to a 5-6 season, including winning three straight from West Creek, Glencliff and Northwest that essentially got the Knights into the playoff conversation.
The Knights followed the string of wins with a string of losses before finishing the regular season with two straight victories to get into the postseason for a school-record third straight time.
Perry led the way, running for more than 150 yards in each of the last two games and finishing with more than 120 yards against Hillsboro.
And Perry’s path to this point has been paved with some assistance along the way. It was former Kenwood star Maleek Hall who mentored a young Perry, encouraging him to work on that now-famous footwork and to work on his technique as a quarterback.
“He was the one that taught me that it’s got to be more than just talent,” Perry recalled. “Talent is great but it’s only going to get you so far. Maleek kept telling me I needed to work out all the time and do the little things that would help me play well.”
Perry also took advantage of some summer quarterback camps and was enthusiastic when he and his wide receivers participated in 7-on-7 camps. But it was his solo work in the summer that helped him develop those quick feet that gave so many coaches nightmares on Thursday nights.
“I’ve matured so much more than when I was a freshman or sophomore,” Perry said. “I knew the game a little bit but I understand the game now. That’s the biggest difference. You can know the game or you can understand it. The ones that understand the little things are the ones that have success.”
George Robinson. Prep writer. 245-0747. firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook and Twitter: @Cville_Sports.
The Leaf-Chronicle All Area Schedule
Sunday, Dec. 21 – Cross Country
Monday, Dec. 22 – Volleyball
Tuesday, Dec. 23 – Golf
Wednesday, Dec. 24 – Soccer
Thursday, Dec. 25 – Football