Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 19, 2013

When a loss is a win

Perry clan has family gathering at Navy-Delaware game

Bill Burt
bburt@andovertownsman.com

---- — Losing in the Perry household has never been a reason to hold a party, particularly when a family member is on the wrong end of a 51-7 game.

But on Saturday, in Annapolis, Md., the loss was, well, a loss, and the festive, family atmosphere eventually won out.

Two dozen members of the Perry family made the weekend trip to see former Andover great John Perry’s football team, the University of Delaware Blue Hens, and meet up with relatives. John Perry is an offensive assistant coach for Delaware.

Brother E.J. Perry — Andover High’s football coach — was there with his wife and two sons. So were the three other Perry brothers — Tim, James and Matt.

The trip was a memorable one to say the least.

“It was one of the most picturesque scenes in college football at the Naval Academy,” E.J. Perry, the oldest of his brothers, said.

“It was amazing to see the plebes file into the stadium. They actually marched. Then they all had a place on the football field designated to stand. It was amazing to watch.”

Coach E.J. Perry’s Andover High team, which lost to B.C. High in an overtime heartbreaker last Thursday night, doesn’t play again until Sept. 27 against Central Catholic. Coincidentally, his brother James, a coach at Princeton, is off until next week, too, thus allowing for this big family trip.

Last Friday, E.J.’s son, E.J. IV, played in a JV game at B.C. High — he threw for two TDs and ran for another in a 26-20 loss. Following the game, the family left for Annapolis straight from South Boston.

But they made a pit stop in New Jersey. Brother James called and said his Princeton team was doing some film work last Saturday morning and that he would show young E.J. “how to watch a real football practice.” So they dropped young E.J. off at Princeton at about 11 p.m. on Friday and let him ride with his uncle to Annapolis.

“We stayed at my brother John’s house late Friday night and in the morning, we headed to Annapolis to get our tailgate spot, which was mint, right across from the entrance gate to the stadium,” E.J. said. “We tailgated for three hours and entered with the other 36,000 fans.”

While Navy looked like a “bowl team,” what impressed E.J. most was what happened after the game.

“The sportsmanship after the game was awesome,” E.J. said. “Both teams, Delaware and Navy, stood in front of the cadets and sang the Navy fight song together. It was like karaoke — the big screen showed the words while everybody sang. Before the game was just as impressive as the cadets sang the national anthem a cappella style. It was amazing.

“The best part was my mom and dad were in their glory even through a devastating loss,” E.J. said. “We then went to Gibson Island and although we weren’t celebrating victory — we were celebrating life. It was great to be together with everyone, which is harder to do these days.”

As for John and his wife, Jennifer, it was a weekend they won’t forget.

“Despite the outcome of the game, John had a smile on his face at the end of the day being surrounded by our family,” Jennifer Kelly said. “It means so much to us to have their support.”

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Bill Burt is executive sports editor of The Eagle-Tribune and a regular contributing columnist for the Andover Townsman. If you have any sports tidbits you’d like to share, email him at bburt@andovertownsman.com.