Just a few days before the most important football contest in school history, Bunn senior Tevin Perry remembered the last time he was part of a championship march – but with a much different responsibility.
“When I was at Bunn Middle in eighth grade, we won the league title,” Perry said. “I was a cornerback. I never thought I would be on offense, but I always wondered what it would be like to run the football.”
Perry earned that chance one year later for the junior varsity squad on the high school level – and hasn’t stopped since.
At a school where having a star back is almost a given, Perry will be remembered as one of the best to don a Wildcats uniform. And if he picks up 125 yards on the ground during Saturday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 2AA state championship game against Monroe, Perry will break Terence Stokes’ 21-year single-season school record. Stokes went on to become an All-American at Mars Hill College.
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Perry enters the game with 2,176 rushing yards to go with 28 touchdowns. He has eclipsed the 200-yard mark on the ground on three occasions while delivering 210 total points. Perry has contributed touchdowns via receiving (one), kickoff return (one) and interception returns (three) with six two-point conversions.
“Tevin has had a great year,” Bunn coach David Howle said. “When you take a running back like him and put him behind our offensive line, you can have some success. There were a couple of games when Tevin just took over and said we weren’t going to lose.”
Though Perry is only 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, opponents have been befuddled by his inability to go down, especially after an initial hit. Despite his size, Perry is just as comfortable running between the tackles as he is sprinting up the sideline.
“One thing people don’t realize is what a tough kid Tevin is,” Howle said. “He just doesn’t like to go down. When the lights come on, he is ready to play. He is as good at breaking tackles as anybody we’ve had.”
Perry credits much of his success to legendary Bunn player Tarik Cohen.
Three years older than Perry, Cohen took the youngster under his wing when Perry was a freshman. Cohen taught Perry the value of mental and physical toughness, especially for an undersized running back.
“Just being around Tarik and watching him, that really helped me,” Perry said. “I still talk to him before and after every game. He is always giving me tips – he is an inspiration.”
When Bunn trailed East Duplin in the closing minutes of the state quarterfinals, Cohen was on the sideline, and ran almost alongside Perry during a spirited dash toward the end zone for the eventual winning touchdown.
As Perry stood alone near the goalpost, waiting to be joined by his teammates, Cohen performed a spin-o-rama celebration – capped by a loud roar – that could have been heard at the Bunn Library, about 300 yards from the school football field.
Like Perry, Cohen, at 5-foot-6, became accustomed to being underestimated because of his size. It motivated Cohen throughout his high school career, and he was disappointed when college recruiters snubbed him because of his lack of size – even though he possesses blazing speed.
North Carolina A&T gave Cohen an opportunity and, three years later, he is an All-American and has already broken the Aggies’ all-time career rushing record with one more year to go.
That’s a path Perry would love to follow. Lenoir-Rhyne, Louisburg and Wingate are among the schools that have expressed interest in him.
“Tevin is going to play somewhere,” Howle said. “It’s crazy when you think about the number of good backs we’ve had here – we’ve probably had almost 10 of them sign to play in college. We’ve been blessed with running backs here the last 28 years. All of them have had a different style. And you have to put Tevin right up there.”
NCHSAA football championships begin Friday night
Rocky Mount and Belmont’s South Point High kick off the 102nd NCHSAA football championships Friday at UNC’s Kenan Stadium. Kickoff is 7:35 p.m.
Saturday’s games will take place at three sites: UNC, Wake Forest and N.C. State. Tickets are $10; presale tickets at the individual schools are $9 and the school gets $1 for each presale ticket.
Friday at UNC: 3A - Rocky Mount vs. South Point, 7:45 p.m.
Saturday at Wake Forest: 1AA - Wallace-Rose Hill vs. Mitchell County, 12:05 p.m.; 1A - Plymouth vs. Robbinsville, 4:05 p.m.; 4A - J.H. Rose vs. Charlotte Catholic, 8:05 p.m.
Saturday at N.C. State: 4AA - Page vs. Mallard Creek, 12:05 p.m.; 2A - Kinston vs. Shelby, 4:05 p.m.; 2AA - Bunn vs. Monroe, 8:05 p.m.
Saturday at UNC: 3AA - Southern Durham vs. Crest, 12:05 p.m.