OMAHA — Chase Perchal is one of Lincoln Pius X's worst nightmares this season.
Perchal sent second-ranked Millard South to the state quarterfinals when he returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Friday. That sealed a 34-14 victory by the Patriots in the first round of the Class A Playoffs at Buell Stadium.
Perchal, a junior, already had another interception and had returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown in the first half as Millard South streaked to a 27-0 lead.
Perchal's fourth-quarter heroics were reminiscent of the first meeting between Millard South and Pius X in the second week of the season. Trailing 35-19 early in the fourth quarter, Pius X mounted a comeback and took a 39-35 lead with 22 seconds left in the game. Perchal returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and a 42-39 victory for the Patriots.
"He's a great kid and knows how to win a championship," Millard South coach Andy Means said. Perchal transferred to Millard South this year after playing on Yutan's Class C-2 state championship team last year. "Before the game, I tell the kids, 'Do your job and make a play. You have to be a playmaker.' Chase was."
Pius X scored the first 14 points of the second half, driving 80 yards with the kickoff on 13 plays. Austin Jablonski's 4-yard keeper trimmed the lead to 27-7. On the ensuing kickoff, Andrew Ellerbee pounced on a Millard South fumble and after two running plays were stuffed for no gain, Jablonski threw a lateral to receiver Josh Miller, who then threw a 34-yard strike to Jonathan Andreasen for a Thunderbolt score.
"You get 14 points fairly quickly and you're only down 13 with over a quarter left. You have a lot of momentum, and in high school football, momentum goes a long way," Pius X coach Ryan Kearney said. "I felt pretty good about where we were. We kept fighting and grinding. We had to take a couple of risks and chances, and getting that pick returned for a touchdown kind of sealed it."
Millard South sophomore quarterback T.J. Urban sparked the Patriots' quick start, rushing for 80 of his 102 total yards in the first half. Junior tailback Isaiah Harris scored on runs of 2 and 10 yards to give Millard South a 13-0 victory in the first quarter.
Perchal picked off a Pius X pass early in the second period, but the Patriots couldn't capitalize. Millard South did force another three-and-out, and that's when Perchal stepped up with his punt return.
Pius X came up short on a fourth-down run, setting up Millard South's fourth score of the first half, a 2-yard run by Urban.
"A lot of things did go our way in the first half. I was seeing the D-end just flying upfield and he was going to get to Isaiah no matter what we did for a 5-yard loss, so I just kept it and ran up the middle," said Urban.
Perchal said film study contributed to his pick-six.
"I'd been seeing a lot of trick plays from them, so I just stayed back instead of running up," Perchal said. "Tyson Gerdes is the very first block and if I can get outside on that, then I can cut in and cut back out. I just ran as hard as I could."
Means said film study prepared the defense.
"We try to rep their pass patterns over and over and over," Means said. "We hope on Friday night, the kids recognize them. They recognize things so well and they responded."
"They knew we had to move the ball through the air. They have a big front four and their linebackers and their defensive backs were keyed into that," Kearney said. "They did a good job making plays when the ball was in the air, tipping balls and covering receivers."