Hoover 31 - Massillon Jackson 0
October 27, 2007
Vikings rout Bears for Federal title
Josh Weir, Canton Repository
NORTH CANTON They huddled in the end zone with helmets raised, chanting like warriors inside a sloppy Memorial Stadium.
“Who believes? We believe. Who believes? We believe.”
It’d be hard not to after the Hoover Vikings’ performance Friday night.
The Vikings were as persistent as the rain, rolling over rival Jackson, 31-0. Hoover clinched the Federal League high school football title and likely earned its first home playoff game since 2003.
With so much at stake and the Polar Bears (4-6, 3-4) playing out the string, the Vikings (8-2, 6-1) could have been excused for playing tight.
“We just did what we’ve been doing all year,” Hoover senior Matt Wakulchik said. “We’re not going to back down and be passive. We just wanted some good momentum going into the playoffs, and we did it.”
Tight? Please. Gene Kelly might as well been hopping puddles on Hoover’s sideline.
“These kids have been through a lot of tough things the last three years, lots of tough wins and losses, lots of injuries,” Hoover coach Donnie Hertler Jr. said. “It’s kind of coming together for them.”
Hoover gained almost 250 yards of offense to Jackson’s 17 in the first half, sprinting to a 24-0 lead. And that was with three turnovers, including two muffed punts.
With Jackson geared to stop Erick Howard, QB Jared Wackerly sliced them up. He completed 10-of-16 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Two scores went to Wakulchik, who finished with five grabs for 100 yards.
“It wasn’t easy (with the conditions), but those guys are pretty good at what they do,” Hertler said.
Wakulchik’s 2-yard TD catch capped a 13-play, 73-yard drive on the night’s first possession. He then booted a 28-yard field goal late in the first quarter for a 10-0 lead.
“You want to get a lead on a night like this, force them to come from behind,” Jackson coach Thom McDaniels said. “They did what we wanted to do.”
Hoover’s defense continued its stellar play behind James Georgiades, Mitch Rose, Mike Kohler, Greg Tischler and others. The Vikings had allowed 7 points in five of its last six games. The other? They allowed 21 points in Week 6 to Lake — Stark County’s highest-scoring team entering the night.
The Vikings outgained Jackson 381-83 while picking off three passes, recovering a fumble and gaining their first shutout of the season.
“Our defense this second half of the year has been a little underrated,” Hertler said. “We’ve come along a lot.”
Jackson star back Carlin Isles was averaging 185 yards his last five games. But Isles had only three carries of more than 2 yards and finished with 15 yards Friday.
Jackson showed signs of life early in the second quarter. Mike Benroth picked off a Hoover pass in the end zone. But Georgiades got a tackle-for-loss, then knocked down a pass to help snuff that drive.
Jackson ran two plays in Hoover territory during the first half. The first was a false start penalty. The other was an overthrow that Dan Nettleton intercepted.
That set up Wakulchik. A play after going 25 yards on a screen, he grabbed a pass up the left seam, stumbled in the mud and stayed on his feet for a 53-yard TD reception.
Another Hoover pick, this one by Jeff Meek, set up another score.
Howard rumbled 35 yards inside the Jackson 10. Wackerly rolled right on the next play, bought time with a fake, then took it in for a 7-yard TD and a 24-0 Hoover lead.
Howard finished with 84 yards. Older brother Phil Howard saw his most extensive action of the season and responded with 90 yards.
“With their running, all it does is open up the pass game,” Wakulchik said.
Isles sent a jolt through the Jackson crowd with a 71-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. But that possession ended in another Jackson interception, this one grabbed by Rose. The Vikings turned that into a 3-yard Kevin Dahl TD grab from Wackerly.