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Hoover 14 - Canton GlenOak 0

Division 1 Regional Final

November 16, 2008

The team shines in Hoover win

Todd, Porter, Canton Repository

It isn’t touched. It isn’t heard. It isn’t tasted. It is just seen.

And North Canton Hoover running back Erick Howard has it. The “it factor” is rarely a commodity for a high school football player, but when one has it, boy is it special to watch. 

Saturday at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Howard didn’t carry his teammates to the school’s most wins in a season, most playoff games and many other school firsts. They carried one other. 

North Canton Hoover, with Howard leading the way, made a decision in the third quarter of a 0-0 game against Federal League rival GlenOak. The Vikings decided it was time to go out and win a football game. They did, 14-0, and will play St. Ignatius next week during a memorable and historic season at Hoover High. 

That decision was made the same way back in August that they would collectively set out to play for a state title for the first time since 1984. 

“I’m not gonna lie,” Howard said. “Individually, we don’t have enough talent to do this, but collectively and as a team we do. We play so good together as a team we believe we can get the job done.” 

Saturday night that was illustrated. 

Make no mistake. This win almost didn’t happen. Howard’s availability for the game was kept under lock and key at Hoover. He was hurt and nursing an undisclosed injury that was so severe, Howard didn’t think he was playing. And without Howard, well, everyone needs a difference maker at this point in the season. 

“I was distraught, to be honest,” Howard said. “I was sick to my stomach most of the week because I didn’t think I would be able to play.” 

But Friday he practiced for the first time. That was the first day Hoover head coach Don Hertler Jr. knew he’d have his 2,000-yard back and stone-crushing linebacker. 

Howard’s No. 5 jersey was torn and tattered by the fourth quarter.

He wasn’t shredded, though. 

“He’s a difference maker,” Hertler said. 

“Donny is a smart coach,” GlenOak head coach Scott Garcia said.

“He’s gonna ride his best player.” 

There was a time when it looked like the Golden Eagles had momentum.

Howard, with help from his offensive line, made sure it didn’t stay that way. 

GlenOak’s Collins Daniels-Mitchell blocked a 22-yard field goal just before halftime and the Golden Eagles, smarting from a regular-season loss to Hoover, took all the playoff momentum into the locker room. But Hoover’s defense, which hasn’t allowed a point in the second half of a game in five weeks, stoned GlenOak. 

The Vikings forced a three-and-out to start the second half. The idea was to get the ball in Howard’s hands and let him do what he does. 

Take over. 

He ran for 6 yards on first down. He chewed up 7 more on second. He bit off 5, then 8 and another 6. 

Hoover had the ball at the GlenOak 26 when quarterback Brett Tulodzieski faked a handoff to Howard and threw into the end zone for wide receiver Greg Beck. 

The only thing heavier than a football on this cold night was Beck’s heart. His stepfather, Dave Emig, had a heart attack during the playoff win against Massillon and died. 

Beck snatched the ball against a sideways wind and stepped into the end zone for a 7-0 Hoover lead with 6:56 to play. 

The Vikings defense, easily the best big-school defense in the area, put it away. Joe Cerreta picked off a pass in the middle of the fourth quarter. Howard did the rest to put it away. 

They call Howard a one-man show. We’re not kidding anyone. High school football players like Howard come through a county once a decade or so. The last one here was Mike Doss. 

But Howard has teammates who are very good high school football players. Combined, they make for a great team. 

When it was all said and done, Hertler walked in the middle of the field with a smile like the cat that just ate the canary. 

He looked into his stands and pumped his fists. His father, legendary Hoover coach Don Hertler Sr., watched his son’s team beat Massillon, McKinley and now win a regional championship. 

This hasn’t been an easy year for Hertler Jr., either. He was arrested for driving under the influence during the offseason. His administration and school board supported him. 

“This has been a tough year,” said Hertler, a bit of free spirit. “A lot of people hung with me and our kids. … On a personal level, this was precious. I didn’t think my dad would be around to see this happen.” 

Life is precious. Hertler watched one of his key players deal with tragedy this season. Nights such as this in North Canton aren’t taken for granted. It’s a football team where players teach coaches about life, and the other way around. 

That’s just good for kids. Life isn’t about any one person’s success and talents. It’s about the group and making the whole as good as it can be. Hoover, this season, is living proof of that. (1)


Press Release #2

Mike Popovich, Canton Repository

MASSILLON A lasting impression from Saturday’s rematch between Hoover and GlenOak will be Erick Howard dragging a hoard of tacklers toward the end zone shortly before scoring the clinching touchdown. 

Yes, the Hoover running back had another big night, but he didn’t carry his team to the Division I final four by himself. Other Vikings put their stamp on a 14-0 regional final win over the Golden Eagles at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. 

Quarterback Brett Tulodzieski and receiver Greg Beck did their part on a touchdown completion that opened the scoring. 

Defensive back Joe Cerreta snuffed out a potential game-tying drive with an interception. 

Together with Howard, they helped the Vikings (12-1) move on to the state semifinals for the first time since 1984. They will play Cleveland St. Ignatius next Saturday in Massillon. 

“We just kept playing and doing what we do, ” Hoover coach Don Hertler Jr. said. “To shut anybody out at this time of year is unbelievable.” 

Cerreta’s fourth-quarter pick helped the Vikings take a big step toward the state semis. 

Hoover was trying to protect a 7-0 lead when GlenOak drove into Vikings territory. A pass intended for GlenOak’s Luke Garvin on fourth down could have extended the drive, but Cerreta made the interception at the Hoover 23. 

“I made some good reads and broke on the ball pretty quick,” Cerreta said. “I didn’t have one in awhile, so it felt good to get one. 

“There was some good pressure up front by the defensive line and linebackers. They just did a great job.” 

It was a crushing blow for the Eagles. The Vikings practically ran out the clock by handing the ball off to Howard. His 1-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left capped a 33-carry, 140-yard rushing night. 

GlenOak (10-3) held Howard to just 19 yards in a scoreless first half, but the 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior got rolling on Hoover’s first possession of the third quarter. Five carries totaling 32 yards drove the Vikings to the Eagles 26. 

Hoover went to the air on second-and-eight. Beck stepped in front of a GlenOak defender and caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Tulodzieski to break the scoreless deadlock. 

“Actually, it really wasn’t designed for me,” Beck said. “Just the way it actually broke down, Brett made a play on the run and we ended up hooking up on it.” 

Beck and Tulodzieski also hooked up on a 42-yard completion in the first half before a Hoover field goal attempt was blocked by Collin-Daniels Mitchell. Tulodzieski finished 10-of-12 for 115 yards. 

“I thought Brett Tulodzieski played the best game he has played all year,” Hertler said. “He just keeps growing.” 

The Eagles’ best opportunity came on their first possession of the game when they held the ball for almost nine minutes. They converted two third downs and faced first-and-goal from the Vikings 6 after DeWuan Spencer’s 11-yard run. 

Spencer ran for no gain and was wrapped up by Hoover defenders Dom Boyle and Tim Hartzell for a 2-yard loss on first and second down. A shovel pass to Andrew Garman moved GlenOak to the 2, but Dan Leek’s sack of Brandon Martin stopped a promising Eagles drive. 

“We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot all night offensively,” GlenOak coach Scott Garcia said.

“We got some things going early, but we just couldn’t sustain drives.” (2)

Game Note: It often goes unsaid, but Hoover’s coaching staff year-in and year-out prepare, coach and motivate each and every Hoover team to perform to the best of their abilities. Add to that their outstanding game plan for each opponent and the adjustments they make during the game, adds up to what we at Hoover have come to expect – WINNING. (3)


(1) fridaynightohio.com

(2) Mike Popovich, Canton Repository

(3) Webmaster, hoovervikingsfootball.com