Wadsworth 45 - Hoover 33Division 1 Regional Semifinal
November 9, 2003
Hoover swept out of playoffs
Andy Call, Canton Repository
MASSILLON Wadsworth High School football coach Greg Dennison has heard about positive mental attitude all his life.
His father, Walsh University coach Jim Dennison, preaches PMA to his teams as well as to corporate and educational groups. And PMA is a great thing to have especially when your team is behind 27-7 and has given up 300 yards of total offense in the first half.
“We have talked to our kids about that approach, and tonight they responded to it,”
Greg Dennison said.
Indeed. The Grizzlies scored 38 unanswered points Saturday night to erase that 20-point deficit and stun North Canton Hoover, 45-33, a Division I, Region 2 semifinal in front of 6,188 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I can’t tell you I felt like everything was solid when we were down 27-7,” Wadsworth quarterback Clint Cochran admitted. “All we could do was keep playing and hope an opportunity presented itself.”
“We always have faith,” said Grizzlies running back Paul Macko, who rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Wadsworth (10-2) will face Toledo St. John’s in next week’s regional finals. Hoover, the region’s top seed and ranked No. 4 in the final state Associated Press poll, finishes 11-1.
“We knew this was going to be a superior challenge for our defense, and we would have to score a lot of points to win,” North Canton coach Don Hertler Jr. said. “Their guys made the plays to get the momentum going back their way, and they kept that momentum.”
The play that turned the tide of the game came late in the first half, when Wadsworth’s Luke Busson stopped North Canton quarterback Sam Ceretta on a fourth-and-1 sneak at the 25, one of Busson’s 20 tackles. The Grizzlies scored on their next drive to dwindle the deficit from 27-7 to a more workable 27-14 at halftime.
“We were ready to go up by four scores, and instead we were only up two, and we had to kick off to them to start the second half,” Hertler said.
A couple mistakes by the Vikings helped turn the tide of the game as well.
A botched North Canton field-goal attempt, a fumbled punt return and an Alex McIlvaine interception were all followed by Wadsworth touchdowns. The Grizzlies scored on five of their six second-half possessions to lead 45-27 before the Vikings managed a consolation TD with 50 seconds to play.
Cochran, a 6-foot-4-inch, 203-pound senior, was the engineer driving the comeback train. He completed 20-of-29 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score against a North Canton defense that had permitted only 14 points during the previous three weeks.
“People who came to see him play were probably pretty impressed,” Hertler said of Cochran, who has signed with the University of Toledo for next season.
Ceretta was nearly Cochran’s equal, however, completing 24-of-41 passes for 285 yards and three TDs. Running backs Alex Ramsey and Mike Wright rushed for 142 and 94 yards, respectively, as North Canton led 496-450 in total offense.
The Vikings were (almost literally) unstoppable during the first half. North Canton scored on each of its first four drives to take a 27-7 lead, rolling up 301 yards of total offense prior to intermission.
Hoover’s first two touchdowns came after drives of 55 and 74 yards. Ramsey ran for 52 of his 98 first-half yards during his team’s game-opening possession, setting up Ceretta’s touchdown sneak from a yard away. The Vikings’ second drive ended when Chad Coyle broke free in the left side of the end zone and hauled in a 9-yard TD pass from Ceretta, who had skipped away from a couple pursuers to allow Coyle the opportunity to find space to run.
The Vikings scored their third touchdown in an unlikely situation third-and-17 from their 27. Ceretta zipped a screen pass to Kyle Watts in the middle of the field, then Watts began to weave to his right. He appeared surrounded by white jerseys just beyond the line of scrimmage, but Watts flew past them and sprinted away from the remaining defenders to complete a 73-yard TD pass that extended Hoover’s lead to 21-7.
Watts accumulated 155 yards on nine catches during the game.
A short Wadsworth punt required the Vikings to travel only 37 yards for their fourth touchdown, Ramsey walking into the end zone standing up from 7 yards out to make the score 27-7.
Wadsworth did demonstrate its explosive offensive ability on a couple occasions in the first half.
The Grizzlies stunned North Canton with a double-reverse flea-flicker on the first play from scrimmage. Macko handed off to wide receiver Pat Brink, who flipped the ball back to Cochran. There was no Vikings defender within shouting distance of wideout Mike Marshall when Cochran dropped the ball into his arms at the 30. Marshall ran untouched into the end zone, completing a 69-yard touchdown. Marshall would finish with 198 yards receiving on seven catches.
Cochran completed six passes on Wadsworth’s final drive of the first half, then burrowed his way into the end zone from a yard away to pull the Grizzlies within 27-14 at halftime.
“I can honestly say I’ve never had more fun coaching a group of kids than this one,” Hertler said. “Some people thought we wouldn’t win half our games. I’m disappointed for them that it ended this way. But I’m sure not disappointed in our players or the effort they gave.”
North Canton Hoover Vikings
2003 Federal League Champions
Perfect 10 – 0 Regular Season Record