Massillon Perry 20 - Hoover 14
PERRY TWP. Perry’s 20-14 conquest of Hoover presented a fascinating slice of 2020 high school football life.
Perry dug out of a 14-3 hole in a tense Federal League battle. It stayed tense for the Panthers. Their coach was like an old painter who didn’t care that the public might buy the product. This wasn’t his kind of art.
After improving to 3-0, Keith Wakefield gave his team a terse speech on the field, then wheeled and speed-walked the Panthers back to the school house.
Hours earlier, the Hoover team filed into Perry Stadium, spikes clicking beneath a giant American flag flown from a bucket jutting from a ladder high above a fire truck.
More than 1,000 people gathered, 975 spectators (the permissible 15 percent of stadium capacity), football players, coaches, Perry’s band, workers and special guests in uniform.
Everyone knew why the truck and the flag were there, and all else was quiet when the band played the national anthem. Finally, on the 19th anniversary of a dark day, in the season of COVID-19, the game got rolling, and that wasn’t normal, either.
On the opposite end of the field from the fire truck, near another giant American flag (half staff), after the second play of the game, injured Hoover senior Yanni Volas stayed down on the field for a long time.
Eventually, Perry launched a punt of almost 70 yards, and quarterback Connor Ashby got it all back on Hoover’s first play, a deep pass over the middle to Eliot Tornow. That led to a 6-yard touchdown lob to Brock Henne, and a 7-0 Viking lead.
Hoover played extra defenders on the line, intent on containing Perry’s run game. Easier said than done. Panther senior Josh Lemon ran 70 yards for a touchdown that got called back by a holding penalty. Quarterback Hayden Vinas ran a keeper 45 yards. That set up a 21-yard field goal by Lincoln Warstler.
Hoover’s defense played without injured standout Drew Logan. Volas left early, his right arm heavily wrapped while he was down on the field.
Stacking the box didn’t stop Lemon, who in his previous two games against Hoover rushed for 380 at 13.1 per carry.
The Panthers withstood a 333-yard, four-TD passing game by Ashby last year in a 35-28 win. They contained Ashby through much of this Friday.
Cam Bowen‘s blocked punt led to Hoover taking a 14-3 halftime lead. One play after a fourth-and-8 conversion, Ashby hit Henne for an 11-yard touchdown.
Hoover head coach Brian Baum is rolling with the punches, hoping what he sees as “a very good football club” gets rolling after a 1-2 start.
“It’s odd having a game against Perry this early,” Baum said. “Usually that’s Week 6 or 7. Now we’re three games in with three to go until the playoffs.
“There’s definitely a different feel to it. We’re in it now.”
Ashby’s feel for the game was a factor Perry had to overcome. Hoover got the ball first in the second half and got to a third-and-1 at its own 29. Baum called pass. Nothing was there, but Ashby made something, gliding around the rush, watching Henne improvise his way open, and connecting for a first down.
Perry wound up getting the ball back on Jovoni Lapanja‘s tipped-ball interception.
The Panthers made their move on a determined 20-yard run by Lemon, who then found an inside lane on a 21-yard TD run. Hoover’s lead shrank to 14-10 heading for the fourth quarter.
Perry’s pass rush, pass coverage and run defense became factors.
After a punt, the injured defender, Logan, made his way to a frustrated Ashby and yelled encouragement.
Someone had to stop Lemon. Easier said than done. The Perry senior gained chunks on a 62-yard drive. Dominic Vinas scored from the 2, and Perry led 17-14 with 7:08 left. Then came a late field goal