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Duquesne Football

Inside the Dukes: Duquesne Survives Conference Battle, Advances to Much-Needed off Week



PITTSBURGH — Survive and advance is often a motto for single-elimination tournaments, but the Duquesne Dukes lived by that mantra in an effort to survive a back and forth thriller against conference foe Bryant on Saturday that ended in a 39-34 win.

The game finished with Bryant one yard away from putting up six to win the game, and before that saw Darius Perrantes drill a 21-yard touchdown to Davie Henderson with just 51-seconds left to go up by five.

That is surviving. The team came into this game knowing it was going to be a grind. The injury bug has not been kind to the group that improved to 4-1, and 2-0 in conference play with the win. In their first game of the season, they lost starting quarterback Joe Mischler for the season, and cornerback Ryan Webb for a few weeks.

Webb came back against Bryant but pulled up with another injury in the game. The team was relying on his presence because they were also down linebacker Connor Barrett, cornerback Zeke Daure, and team captain Spencer DeMedal at safety.

All of a sudden an experienced defense was calling on younger, and less experienced names to make plays.

“We are banged up, we got a number of injuries across the board,” admitted head coach Jerry Schmitt.  “From starters down to special teams we are banged up so we are stressed, so we had young guys, guys who have not taken reps in games they did a good job on defense and on special teams. That is why you have to believe in what you are doing on every single play.”

Due to the injuries the team needed to find any way to win this game. That meant a trick play with a wide receiver hitting a bomb to a running back, a blocked kick, a punt return that put the ball at the six-yard line, and of course, the comeback drive that put the game away followed by the game-saving tackle on the one-yard line. That is the description of a team digging in for a full team effort to survive and advance to the next week.

“The thing was that they never put their heads down throughout the game,” exclaimed Schmidt. “I asked the team in our meeting to come out with focus and energy from play one, and we did, but in the locker room, I said you know we play 60 minutes here. The first one matters as much as the last one, and boy did that last one matter too.”

Fortunately for a Dukes team that gave in all-in effort from wire to wire, they have a bye week next week. After two straight conference tests and the list of injured players, the bye could not come at a better time. The team will look to first of all get healthy, but then get back to playing a style of football that puts teams away, rather than looks for comebacks and all-in efforts to get by.

“We got a nice bye week coming,” admitted quarterback Darius Perrantes. “We got a lot of injuries on our team. That bye week will help get us back.”

The bye week will lead to their third conference test at Sacred Heart.

Darius Perrantes: Calm, Collected, Clutch

On a day where the defense was banged up and running through bodies, the offense stepped up to the challenge. Head coach Jerry Schmitt knew he needed to lean on his offense, and they delivered.

“We knew they were a good football, and especially a very good offensive football so you gotta maintain scoring with them,” Schmitt said of his opponents, who racked up 311 passing yards, and 176 rushing yards.

Still, his quarterback Darius Perrantes one-upped them with 316 yards through the air and three touchdowns, the last being the game-winner with 31 seconds left.

“It was man coverage,” said Perrantes, describing the pass. “Just had to exploit their defensive backs, that’s what did all game.”

Perrantes was hitting deep shots throughout the game, but on the final drive hit big passes to Garrett Owens, and Cyrus Holder, as well as scrambled for a big gain before dropping the dime on Henderson for the win. The drive was as clutch as you will see.

“Just do what we do,” said Perrantes on the mindset of the huddle before the game-winning drive. “Stay calm, stay collected. Everyone was playing for each other. Not one person plays as an individual player here. We are all playing to win and that’s what happens.”

Perrantes was calm, collected and clutch and his leadership at quarterback showed as the rest of the team followed through.

Cyrus Holder emerges as WR1

Entering the season, Cyrus Holder was expected to be the team’s top wideout after leading the team through the spring season. He led the team in week one, but in week two Joey Isabella lead the group in targets and receptions. Against Virginia-Lynchburg Davie Henderson was the top wideout, and Garrett Owens led the team in receiving against Merrimack.

Owens is a running back, but with Isabella, Henderson, as well as Wykeen Gill, and Dominic Thieman, the Dukes looked to be much more of a spread-it-out attack with equal mouths to feed than a team that has a top wideout that they pepper.

However, Holder showed up Saturday determined to set himself apart as the top target. He did that by hauling in seven passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He also had a pass interference that flipped the field and led to points as well as a PI in the end zone that also led to points. Holder was clearly the top dawg on Saturday.

“It’s great to see that because we knew since the spring he has it in him,” said Schmitt of Holder breaking out on Saturday. “We have been spreading things around the last couple of games, and eating possessions on the ground in the second half, and he has not had the opportunity to get as many targets, but he knows he has it in him. He got hurt on that first catch and he sucked it up, he is a tough kid in and he compliment the other guys really well.”

Holder hauled in a field flipping pass on the first drive of the game and was helped off of the field with an injury. He was back on the field the very next drive and was hauling in another big pass. His touchdown came after a big catch to set up the pass, and the play gave the Dukes a 21-14 lead.

“He is a big piece of this team,” said Perrantes. “He is a team player, he does everything for his teammates, even his off days are better than some people.”

Perrantes clearly was favoring his top wideout who led the team in targets, catches, and yards. Holder converted a first-down reception that moved the chains and set up the pass from Perrantes to Henderson for the final score. Schmitt and the Dukes have to be happy to know that while they can run the ball and spread it around, they also have a force that they can feed when needed.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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