Massillon Jackson 17 - Hoover 7
October 31, 2014
Jackson ends season on a positive note by beating Hoover
With a cold, drenching rain soaking Jackson’s Robert Fife Stadium on Friday, it seemed a fitting setting for the Polar Bears to wash away some of their late-season frustrations.
For more than three quarters, though, it seemed the Hoover Vikings would only add to their lengthy list of success in this annual clash between the backyard rivals.
That is, until Jackson senior running back Ricky Spradling stamped his imprint on his final home game by scoring twice in the final 3:37 to rescue the Polar Bears and stun the Vikings.
The result was a 17-7 Jackson victory that allowed the Bears to close the season at 6-4 overall and 2-3 in the Federal League. It also let Jackson exorcise some demons related to its longtime rivals, as it was just Jackson’s second win in the last 10 years over Hoover. The Bears’ last victory came in 2010, a 45-27 decision in coach Beau Balderson’s second season on the sidelines.
“We talked about leaving a legacy,” said Balderson, whose team started 4-0 before dropping four of its last five games. “My second year here, we won three games. No one remembers the seven we lost, but one of the games we won was this one and everyone remembers that. It’s a special group.
“These guys kept fighting all the way to the end. I love this group of seniors. It’s one of those special groups. I know we haven’t had everything go our way this year, but this is what we wanted to send them out with on our home field. We were able to get it done tonight.”
Spradling finished with 195 yards on 30 carries. With Jackson trailing 7-3 and taking possession at its 38 following a Hoover punt, Spradling’s 25th carry proved to be his biggest.
Spradling took a handoff from quarterback Jake Pallotta, hit a hole in the middle of the line and cut outside to the right sideline. He picked up a block, tightroped the sideline and outraced the Hoover defense 62 yards to the end zone for the Bears’ first touchdown of the game. Charlie Costin’s point-after kick gave Jackson a 10-7 lead with 3:36 left to play.
“He was tackle away from breaking that play a lot of times all night,” Balderson said. “Hoover’s safeties did a great job coming up in support. On that play Ricky did a great job making one guy miss and our receiver out there, Jack Tirmonia or Jake Kempt, stayed with his guy and Ricky took it up the sidelines.”
Despite Jackson’s offensive struggles against a stout Hoover defense, the Bears were always just one play away from taking the lead. That wasn’t lost on Spradling or his teammates.
“We were just so close all game and our defense just kept playing so well and kept us in the game,” Spradling said. “That really helped us and then we were able to gain some momentum back and rolled from there.
“We just had to adjust because Hoover was putting a lot of guys in the box. Taking it outside on that play was the best option on that play.”
Jackson’s defense forced a turnover on downs on Hoover’s next possession. That allowed Spradling to cap a brief five-play, 26-yard drive with a 4-yard plunge with just 1:04 left.
Prior to the two late touchdowns, Jackon’s lone offense was Costin’s 23-yard field goal that put the Bears up 3-0 early midway through the first. The score was set up by Tyler Deagan’s fumble recovery in Hoover territory.
Hoover answered with a 63-yard drive that took 11 plays, as fullback Reed Davis bolted 16 yards up the middle on a trap play for the Vikings only score. Eric Sarbaugh’s point-after with 11:07 left until half made it a 7-3 Hoover lead.
Jackson had a Spradling third-quarter touchdown run called back after a holding penalty. The Bears subsequently missed a field goal to keep it at 7-3. They later had a touchdown pass dropped in the end zone. Prior to that, leading receiver Shane Ridgway was lost to an injury late in the first half.
Through it all, though, the Polar Bears kept the faith.
“We struggled moving the ball all night,” Balderson said. “Obviously these conditions don’t make it easy and then when your leading receiver (Ridgway) goes out with a dislocated shoulder and broken ankle on the same play that’s a huge loss. We had a touchdown called back and a dropped pass in the end zone. Our defense as playing phenomenal all night.
“Shane sacrificed for the team. That kid is the leading receiver all-time in school history and I can’t say enough about him. We said at half that this was going to be for him.”
Hoover finished its season 3-7 overall and 0-5 in league play. In many ways, the Jackson loss epitomized the Vikings’ season, as the 10-point spread was the largest margin of defeat in all their Federal League setbacks.
“Give Jackson credit. They made the play there in the fourth quarter when they needed to,” Hoover coach Don Hertler Jr. said. “Ricky made a great run. We had to get up two scores at some point to have some room and we weren’t able to do it.
“That’s just sort of been our season. A play or two here or there. We didn’t make them and the other team did. That’s the way it’s been for us all year.”