Hoover 35 - Massillon Perry 21
PERRY TWP. With his team down two touchdowns faster than you can say “Enter Sandman,” Hoover coach Brian Baum stood in front of his players and delivered a message that stung harder than anything his defense had thrown at Perry through the first eight minutes.
“It was real simple,” Baum said. “I went on the field and I was fired up. I told them, ‘You’ve got to play with more heart and more desire.'”
For the final 40 minutes, the Vikings did, out-Perrying the Panthers up front en route to a decisive 35-21 victory that put Hoover back in the Federal League championship race.
Perry’s intro song may feature the words “Exit light, enter night,” but it was the Vikings who played lights-out when it mattered the most.
“It was just our motivation to come out and fight,” said senior DB Sam Bird, who had two interceptions on a night when Perry only threw it three times. “We didn’t want to go out that way. We’re still competing for a Federal League championship and we had to win to get it done.”
While Hoover’s defense shut down Perry’s vaunted wing-T over the final three quarters, sophomore quarterback Connor Ashby was masterful all night, completing 23 of 26 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 12 times for 80 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (4-2, 2-1), who are one game behind McKinley in the league standings.
“It was a lot of fun,” Ashby said. “My line was great all night and our defense stepped it up for sure. We just ran our offense, executed well, spread it out, ran the ball a lot, passed the ball a lot and just executed.”
David Forrest caught six passes for 113 yards, including a 50-yard bomb over the Perry defense in the opening minutes of the third quarter that gave Hoover the lead for good, 21-14. Junior RB Adam Griguolo added 100 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns, capping a 35-0 run by the Vikings.
Although Perry’s offense finished with 311 yards rushing, 158 of those yards came on the game’s first two drives. (Another 74 came on a fourth-quarter touchdown run by Josh Lemon that finished out the scoring.) Hoover’s defensive line repeatedly shifted to counter Perry’s formations and the Vikings’ linebackers and defensive backs played fast and physical.
Consequently, they were able to do something only one other team has done over the past four seasons — beat Perry in the second half of the regular season.
“After those first two scores, I reminded them that they had seen the wing-T live,” said Baum, who singled out his defensive coaches, Mike Doty and Dominic Boyle. “We can’t simulate it in practice, but once they were able to see it live, they were able to make adjustments and play a little smarter. They understood what we wanted to accomplish.”
Perry senior RB Jarin Curtis carried 13 times for 115 yards for Perry (5-1, 1-1), which was playing without senior RB Richard Curtis (shoulder). The Panthers also lost starting QB-S Frank Sciury to a sprained ankle injury late in the game, sapping their already thin roster.
Lemon carried nine times for 160 yards and Sha’VeA Lightner had 47 yards on eight carries.
Although Perry’s offense struggled for much of the game, Wakefield was more concerned about his defense, which looked overmatched in the second and third quarters and gassed in the fourth.
“We couldn’t tackle anybody tonight,” he said. “We didn’t tackle the back (Griguolo) very well and we didn’t tackle (Ashby) at all. We are so unathletic and that’s obvious. They ran over some of our guys, and their receivers are really good blockers. They were getting 5 to 7 yards before anyone touched them on some of their plays outside.
“Some of that you can fix and some of that you can’t fix. My thing is this, I worry that some of them gave up and that’s not a trademark of my teams. But then again, some guys fight to the end and it’s like that in every sport. We’ll see. It’ll show up on film.”
The Panthers have a manageable schedule ahead — of their final four opponents, only McKinley has a winning record — so a playoff berth is very much in play, as is a Federal League title provided they win out.
As for the Vikings, more than a few players mentioned the “p” word afterward, something they haven’t seen since 2012.
“This is a huge win for the program,” Bird said. “We’ve been close the last couple years, so to finally get the job done tonight feels great. Hopefully we can win out and make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Added Ashby, “We got a lot coming, that’s for sure.”