Hoover 14 - Uniontown Lake 7Overtime
October 18, 2003
Vikings beat Lake in overtime to clinch Federal League title
Todd Porter, Canton Repository
NORTH CANTON The game was over.
The fans on the home side of Memorial Stadium sat in a stunned hush. Division II Lake had a 7-0 lead, the football, momentum and most importantly, North Canton Hoover’s number Friday night in an epic Federal League football game.
Hoover senior quarterback Sam Cerreta stood on the sideline. He watched time tick off the clock. Each second had to feel like two or three kicks to the gut. The Blue Streaks needed one more first down to put away Hoover and give the Vikings their first loss of the season.
Lake was 3 yards nine feet away from a likely win that would have guaranteed it at least a share of the league title and a playoff spot. But Hoover’s defense came through.
Cerreta hit the field running and never doubted the outcome. As a result, North Canton improved to 9-0 with a 14-7 overtime win against Lake in a game they will talk about in North Canton for quite a few years.
The win assures Hoover of a first-round home playoff game and an outright Federal League championship. This is the second season in a row the Vikings have won the league without sharing it, unusual most years, not to mention two in a row.
“When Lake had the lead and the ball, I just figured we weren’t out of this thing yet,” Cerreta said. “We weren’t out of it at all. I just wanted the ball back in our hands. We were not going to lose this game. The only thing that was said on the sideline is ‘we will do whatever it takes to win this ball game.’ “
Apparently, that included pulling magic bunnies out of top hats.
Leading 7-0, Lake needed three yards to pick up a first down to keep the clock moving late in the game. North Canton held and got the ball back with 2:05 to play.
With 59 seconds left, Cerreta hit Brian Drukenbrod (10 catches, 117 yards) for a 9-yard score. Andrew Dahl split the uprights on the point after, and the game was tied.
“All we needed to do was make one more play at the end of the game,” said a dejected Jeff Durbin, Lake’s head coach. “We needed to make one more first down, maybe two. We had them on the ropes, but we could never knock them out. I’m disappointed in the loss, but I sure am proud of our kids and the way they played.
“This would have been a huge win for us with the league and the playoffs. But we’re going to have to live to fight another day.”
North Canton lives to fight for a perfect season in the regular-season finale next Friday against Jackson. It is a feat that has not been accomplished in North Canton since 1975.
The Vikings go into the rivalry game with no pressure hanging over their heads. They are in the playoffs, and they have the league title sewn up.
Logan Sporting Goods can order the new jackets and have them ready by next kickoff.
“Going 10-0 is a humongous goal of ours,” Cerreta said. “Lake is a tough team, and we have another tough team in front of us for that to happen. But I think everyone on this team is aware this is something that hasn’t happened since 1975.”
Hoover is in this position because of Cerreta.
The gangly 157-pound senior completed 6-of-9 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown on the game-tying drive and the overtime period. He connected on 20-of-25 throws for 217 yards for the game.
“What can you say about Sam Cerreta? He was pretty sharp tonight,” Hoover head coach Don Hertler Jr. said. “He was huge for us and stepped up in a big way. He did what you expect a senior quarterback to do. He led us to a victory.”
Lake stopped Hoover’s offense most of the night. The Vikings managed just 72 yards on the ground and were kept off the scoreboard for the first 47 minutes of the game.
“Lake came here to stop the run, and they put eight guys in the box most of the night and stopped it,” said Hertler, who has won 20 of his last 21 Federal League games. “Their middle linebacker (Jordan Howard) was awesome. We had been able to run the ball on them the last three years, but it was tough going tonight.”
What the Blue Streaks will have a tough time forgetting is failing to get the ball in the end zone after eight straight cracks inside the 10.
The Blue Streaks received a new set of down from the Hoover 1 after a pass interference penalty. The Vikings defense refused to buckle and held the Blue Streaks out, keeping the game scoreless at halftime.
“That was a nice lift for us and obviously a huge effort to keep them out like that,” Hertler said. “I think it has to be said what a great job Lake did and what a great job their coaching staff did. They were almost flawless. It was typical Lake football. They drove the ball and kept it away from us. They had some huge third-down plays.”
The Blue Streaks moved the football in the first half. Two of their three possessions began inside Hoover territory. Lake’s first drive started at their own 3 and didn’t end until nearly seven minutes were chewed off the clock with the ball at the North Canton 44.
The Blue Streaks scored the first points of the game during the fourth quarter. On first down from the North Canton 34, junior running back A.J. Workman broke through off right tackle, found a seam and outran Viking defenders into the end zone. Steve Menyes’ PAT made it 7-0 with 6:13 to play.
Workman finished with a game-high 117 yards on 31 carries. His offensive line Stefan Zelich, Aaron Webb, Billy Brown, Cory Dirrig and Nick Bair were overpowering at times.
“I felt like since the first half of the (Sept. 26) GlenOak game, we’ve been playing good football,” Durbin said. “The guys are getting better every week. After A.J.’s touchdown, we had our chance and we needed to stop them.”
On Hoover ensuring possession, the Vikings drove to the Lake 23. On fourth-and-1, Viking senior running back Alex Ramsey tried to go around the right end for the first down, but David Morkel was there and brought him down for a 1-yard loss.
The Blue Streaks got the ball back with 3:10 left in the game. Their sideline was rocking. They could taste a postseason spot and the unlikeliest of team to win the Federal League was about ready to get a share of it, if not the whole thing.
“We just needed that first down,” Durbin said.
It never came.
Cerreta knew he would get another chance. He knew the Vikings deserved at least one break to remain unbeaten.
And it came.
In overtime, Cerreta completed a pass to wide receiver Kyle Watts for 8 yards on second-and-12. Replays showed the ball coming out of Watts’ hands before he was down. However, officials ruled the ball down. Two plays later, after a 9-yard pass to Watts, Ramsey ran around right end from the 5. North Canton had its first lead.
They had momentum.
Some on the Hoover sideline were talking about destiny after the game.
“I don’t know,” Hertler said. “Our motto, though, is ‘just keep playing.’ In order to be 9-0, you have to get some breaks. Maybe we got some tonight. Maybe we made some.”