Elizabethton is unbeaten heading into tonight’s non-conference tussle with Tennessee High and senior Evan Perkins has done his part for the 5-0 Cyclones.
He’s caught 22 passes for 317 yards and is a three-year starter at wide receiver and defensive back.
“We rely heavily on his ability in all phases,” said Elizabethton coach Shawn Witten. “Evan is very sports savvy. He plays three sports and is vital in all three. … He has grown from a possession receiver early in his time to now making plays after the catch. His ability to catch the ball across the middle separates him from a lot of other receivers. He has great hands, awareness and understands his role on the team.”
Such praise was once used to describe the well-known uncle of Evan Perkins.
Elizabethton’s sure-handed standout happens to be the nephew of Cary Perkins, who was a marvel on the Southwest Virginia sports scene during his days at Grundy High School and Emory & Henry College.
Cary Perkins was the playmaker in 1988 for Grundy when the Golden Wave won the first postseason football game in school history.
Cary Perkins was the playmaker for Emory & Henry in 1992, the last time the Wasps won a NCAA Division III playoff game on the gridiron.
He starred in multiple sports.
He won games.
He won awards.
He did all this despite being born with 95 percent hearing loss.
Nothing slowed him down.
“Greg Rowe, who coached Cary in three different sports, said he was a natural, whether he was playing football or basketball or baseball. He also described him well when he said Cary might not win a sprint, but if you put a ball in his hand he would outrun a faster opponent or catch him if he was on defense,” said Bristol Herald Courier Sports Correspondent Lloyd Combs, author of Coalfield Dreams: A Sports History of Buchanan County, Virginia. “I saw him hit game-winners in basketball and I saw him whip a perfect 50-foot lead pass to a teammate for a game-winning lay-in at the buzzer. He once outdueled [future MLB All-Star] Billy Wagner [of Tazewell] in baseball.”
If there is one performance on the football field which encapsulates what Perkins could do it came in a 57-13 victory over Garden during his senior season.
Perkins had touchdown runs of 66 and 53 yards, threw a TD pass and caught two scoring strikes from Randall Swiney. He finished with 425 all-purpose yards and scored 31 points.
Grundy went 10-2 in 1988 and finished as Region IV, Division 4 runner-up. Perkins rushed for two touchdowns and kicked three extra points in a 23-0 triumph over Abingdon in the first round of the playoffs.
“Cary was the best athlete I have ever participated with and saw play. He could do anything,” said Reid Ratliff, a Grundy teammate. “I think if he was given a shot he could have played on any level. He didn’t have the best 40-yard dash times or other stats, but he was a gamer. He just had the will and desire to make big plays.”
Those traits were evident at Emory & Henry as Perkins was an All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference performer at both wide receiver and quarterback.
After playing wide receiver his first three seasons, Perkins was shifted to quarterback after starter Eric Montgomery broke his ankle during the second game of the 1992 season.
In his first start, Perkins completed 8-of-10 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown as the Wasps walloped Bridgewater by a count of 51-6.
By the time it as all said and done, E&H had completed the school’s first perfect regular season since 1949.
“Cary had great football vision and he knew when to take over a game,” said E&H teammate Ricky Webb. “We did not miss a beat with him at QB. … What was surprising in ’92 was how good he could spin the ball. Everyone knew of his route running ability, but man what a quarterback he was. Very instinctual in the pocket, knew where the rush was coming from, knew when to tuck and run and his grasp of the two-minute drill was Tom Brady-like. He was by far the best athlete I played with.”
Perkins finished with 1,072 passing yards and 467 rushing yards that season.
He won the Dudley Award given to the best college football player in the state of Virginia, beating out University of Virginia defensive end Chris Slade and Richmond quarterback Greg Lilly for the honor.
He played three major sports at the college level. That probably will never happen again in these parts.
The power of Perkins was real.
“Cary Perkins was one of the most phenomenal athletes in recent memory,” said Nathan Graybeal, who was the Sports Information Director at E&H at the time and is the authority on the history of the school’s athletic program. “It was one of the most enjoyable seasons covering E&H during my career. The Wasps got media coverage from all over the state and region. There were features on Perkins in the Washington Times, the Virginian-Pilot and newspapers in North Carolina and the Atlanta area. ESPN even came calling to do a feature on him. … Everyone made adjustments [after Montgomery’s injury] and stepped it up behind the athleticism and leadership of Perkins.”
Now, for a look at high school football moments which occurred this week in history:
Sept. 24, 1954
Behind three touchdowns from Bob Booth, Saltville cruised to a 37-7 win over Chilhowie … Harold Honeycutt scored two touchdowns to highlight Tennessee High’s 20-7 triumph over LaFollette. … Wise whipped Coeburn, 38-6, as Jack Stallard scored two TDs.
Sept. 19, 1969
Tennessee High and John Battle battled to a scoreless tie. THS had two scoring drives stall out inside Battle’s 15-yard line. … Ronnie Justice scored four touchdowns in Sullivan Central’s 26-6 win over Lynn View. … Bobby Cook scored two touchdowns as Grundy cooked up a 32-0 victory over Virginia High.
Sept. 23, 1977
Mark French’s first-quarter field goal provided the only scoring in Elizabethton’s 3-0 win over Sullivan East. … A Gene Copenhaver field goal and Andy McCall touchdown run gave Holston a 9-6 victory over Auburn. … Mike Cluesman starred on both sides of the ball in Jonesville’s 14-0 triumph over Pound. Cluesman rushed for 105 yards to go along with nine solo tackles.
Sept. 18, 1981
Jimmy King rushed for two scores and also threw a touchdown pass to Raymond Walker in Tazewell’s 35-21 win over Patrick Henry. … Bobby Hughes scored two touchdowns to highlight Sullivan Central’s 21-14 victory over Sullivan North. … Rye Cove’s Mike Rollins ripped off a 98-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play from scrimmage and that set the tone as the Eagles downed Coeburn, 20-0.