Massillon Perry 12 - Hoover 0
October 21, 2006
Panthers clean up in Viking mud pit
Todd Porter, Canton Repository
NORTH CANTON – By the time Eric Magnacca walked off the field, he looked like he’d been dipped in chocolate.
Fitting, since the surface below his feet at North Canton Memorial Stadium felt like some kind of hot fudge-marshmallow sundae.
Dirt and mud never tasted so sweet for the Perry Panthers. For the third straight year, they beat North Canton Hoover. Friday night’s 12-0 win might have cemented a home playoff game for the Panthers, as well.
If nothing else, this kind of win reinforced what the Panthers are all about.
Pairing Perry with cold, wet and mud is like peanut butter and jelly.
“It is what we’re about,” defensive back Zach Fruchey said. “Coach stresses it. This was our kind of weather, and we went out and took it to them in their house, on their own field.”
Fruchey played no small role in that.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound defensive back had one of about a half-dozen big plays for Perry. He drilled a Hoover wide receiver in the end zone that ultimately rendered a touchdown pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter incomplete.
North Canton quarterback Jared Wackerly took the snap from the Perry 6. With receiver Matt Wakulchik split wide right, Wackerly initially looked left to throw. Wakulchik broke open early, and then again late. He caught the ball in the middle of the end zone.
For a split second.
That is when Fruchey delivered a brain-rattler that knocked the ball loose.
“First of all, Rob Dugan did a great job on (Wakulchik),” Perry head coach Spider Miller said. “… Then Fruchey lit him up. It was a great play.”
“I was lined up on the other side and my guy fell over,” Fruchey said. “The Hoover kid made a nice throw and I was in the right spot at the right time. I saw the ball cross my face and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get one on him to knock it loose for our first shutout.’ ”
The Vikings did that sort of thing all night. They always seemed to be a big play away from getting back in the game. They never made the big play.
Perry kept making them. In the process, the Panther defense helped force five Hoover turnovers.
“You can’t win games if you don’t score points, and that’s on me,” North Canton head coach Don Hertler Jr. said. “To turn it over five times and only lose by two scores when we had the ball inside their 10 twice…they made the stops. We didn’t make the plays.”
North Canton didn’t get a first down until its fifth possession of the game. The Vikings had four straight three-and-outs after a dropped third-down pass in the first series.
When Hoover finally got it going, the Vikings fumbled. North Canton moved the ball to the 50 when the Vikings fumbled a handoff and Perry’s Nick Stropki recovered at the 48.
Four plays later, Magnacca took a counter sweep around right end, eyed a seam and went untouched into the end zone from 32 yards away. The Panthers led, 6-0.
The Vikings put together a drive before halftime that would’ve given them the lead before halftime, but it stalled inside Perry’s 10.
That was, at least, a positive sign for the Vikings. They moved the ball in their last two possessions, but had nothing to show for it.
“Our defense doesn’t get enough credit,” Fruchey said. “But our offense puts the points on the board, and that’s how you win games.”
The Panthers had great field position in the first half. Of their five possessions, Perry started three of them inside North Canton’s 50, and a fourth at its own 48.
That didn’t change much in the third quarter. With about three minutes left in the third, Magnacca found a way to stay upright in the slop. He hit a counter for a 35-yard touchdown and Perry led, 12-0.
By then, his uniform was well past Tide. Magnacca finished with 156 yards on 27 carries.
“You know what? This might sound dumb, but we love those kids,” Miller said. “They give us everything they’ve got. You talk about desire, and talk about dedication and hard work. It’s paying off for them. We’re proud of the Perry family.”
Even on a night when there weren’t many of the under-sized football players clean. Then again, that’s football in this blue-collar town.
Hoover’s defense was given the daunting task of holding the Perry Panthers from scoring when Perry was given the ball inside Hoover’s 10 yard line three times. Hoover’s defense came through holding Perry to just 3 points in those three short field possessions.