FAIRFIELD — At football’s basic level, Josh Perry is just taking over the family business.

A senior captain and starter at center and linebacker at Lawrence High School, Perry is a second generation captain of the Bulldogs. His father, John, was a center and captain on the Bulldogs’ 1980 team that lost the Pine Tree Conference title to Mt. Blue, 13-7.

“He was a good player, and I try to do my best to live up to his standards,” Perry said of his father. “He remembers everything. He remembers every play, and he talks to me all about it. He’s real excited for me.”

Perry has a chance to one up his dad Saturday, when Lawrence (11-0) takes on Cheverus (11-0) at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland for the Class A state championship. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:06 a.m.

Now in his third season at center for the Bulldogs, the 6-foot, 210-pound Perry is the leader of an offensive line that paved the way for Lawrence to average close to 350 yards per game.

“He just brings a lot of responsibility and knowledge about what we expect from our lineman. He’s got a great work ethic,” Lawrence coach John Hersom said. “He’s really provided that leadership. They certainly do look up to him, and he’s lived up to all the expectations we had of him at the start of the season.”

Since his days playing youth football, Perry has been a center. His father was always there to provide tips for playing the position.

“It’s something that just comes easy to me. I just love to play it. I ended up being pretty good at it,” Perry said. “I just go out every single day. I got tips from my dad on how to get better. Snapping and taking a step at the same time. Working my hands in, working my hands well. Balance, steps.”

Perry became Lawrence’s starting center as a sophomore, but he had an idea of what was coming when Hersom approached him his freshman year.

“Coach Hersom came up to me and said he’s been hearing about me doing good work. So that’s when I determined I had to put some work in,” Perry said.

Perry’s first start was in an exhibition game against Waterville in 2009.

“My hands were sweating. I was thinking in my head, what was the snap count? What was this play? What am I supposed to do? I ended up doing pretty well,” Perry said. “I was nervous. Real nervous. Fortunately, those seniors then, they were real experienced guys and they helped me out, helped me out a lot.”

Perry pointed to senior offensive linemen he played alongside as a sophomore, tackles Tyler McKeen and Dylan Forrest, and guard Matt Rowe, as role models.

“All those guys, I just looked up to them. I still do. When they talked to me, I just loved it,” Perry said.

For Hersom and the Lawrence coaching staff, the fact that the young Perry blended in was the highest compliment they could pay.

“He probably got a lot of help from his teammates that year, but he certainly came into his own. He didn’t stand out as a sophomore who was kind of learning,” Hersom said. “In our eyes, he fit right in.”

Perry’s junior season ended early when he suffered a broken ankle against Bangor late in the regular season.

“I felt it pop a couple times, and it didn’t feel good. I tried to walk it off, couldn’t do it. Fortunately, Shaunie (Shaun Carroll, Jr.) helped me off the field,” Perry said.

Perry missed one game this season, the regular-season finale at Messalonskee, with a knee injury. He returned a week later, and helped the Bulldogs beat the Eagles in the conference semifinals.

It’s at inside linebacker where Hersom has seen Perry make big strides this season. Perry had 64 tackles and a fumble recovery in eight regular season games.

“Defensively, he’s come leaps and bounds, I think, this year. Last year he showed a lot of steady improvement. We were in a different scheme last year, he was the middle backer. This year, we’re using the two inside backers,” Hersom said. “He’s a bright kid on the field, and I think that has really helped him understand how important his reads are. He understands blocking schemes, being on offense, and he realizes to be a good defensive player you’ve got to do a good job diagnosing the scheme. He’s a real steady linebacker, shows great urgency to get to the ball.”

The Lawrence defense is built for the defensive tackles to take on multiple blockers, freeing up linebackers like Perry to make tackles.

“I like making tackles. I like being a run stopper. The guys up front, the defensive line, they do a really good job,” Perry said.

As a leader, Hersom said Perry is not a talker, but that’s OK. Perry’s hard work and ability to put football in perspective is important.

“He’s not real vocal. We don’t ask them to be out of character. He’s real steady as far as realizing, we’re here to work. After it’s all over, he’s good at kind of moving on and getting ready for the next thing,” Hersom said. “He does have that real mature approach to what we’re asking every kid to live by while we’re together. It’s business for two hours, then they can wind down. They don’t have to be always banging their head about football.”

For all the subtleties of playing center he’s learned from his father, the best football advice Perry said his father gave him is the simplest.

“If you have a bad play, just go out there on the next play and play your hardest,” Perry said. “No matter what happens, just keep on pushing.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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