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Hoover 38 - Massillon Jackson 7

October 22, 2021 

Runaway train: North Canton Hoover football blasts Jackson for outright Federal League championship

Josh Weir, Canton Repository


NORTH CANTON — This year’s edition of the Battle for the Rail rivalry felt like two trains colliding Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

Hoover was the big train.

The Vikings outhit, outran, outplayed and out-everythinged Jackson for a 38-7 win in the 91st meeting between North Canton and Jackson in high school football.

Before a Senior Night crowd of 4,500, Hoover (8-2, 6-0) denied the Polar Bears (8-2, 4-2) a piece of the Federal League title while clinching its first outright league championship in 13 years.

“They were hungry,” seventh-year Hoover head coach Brian Baum said of his Vikings, whose last league title came in 2018 when they shared it with McKinley. “They wanted this. They did not want to share it.”

In a series marked by dramatic finishes and road team success in recent years, host Hoover leading big as a running clock ticked away midway through the third quarter wasn’t exactly expected. The Vikings’ win snapped a six-year stretch of the road team winning this game, with the previous five being decided by seven points or less.

Friday wasn’t that kind of night.

The game was less than 11 minutes old and Hoover led 21-0. Jackson quarterback Hunter Geissinger already was done for the evening after jarring hits from Drew Logan and Mike Shimek, Hoover’s destructive bookend edge rushers.

The 31-point margin is the largest in the series since Hoover beat Jackson 40-7 in 2012, which was the last time Hoover reached eight wins in a season. North Canton leads the all-time series 63-28.

The Vikings will take a seven-game winning streak into a first-round home playoff game next week in Division II, Region 7. Official matchups will be announced Sunday.

Hoover forced four turnovers Friday —three in the first half — and scored off each one.

Shimek had a hand in three of the takeaways. Tackles don’t seem to be enough for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Shimek, who appears genuinely miffed when he doesn’t rip the ball away from the opponent.

“I honestly was mad when they scored at the end,” Shimek said of Brenden Craig’s 16-yard touchdown run for Jackson with 7:24 left in the fourth quarter. “I really wanted them to have zero points.”

Shimek will have to settle for holding Jackson to a season low in points, 103 yards of total offense and eight first downs. Craig, Stark County’s leading rusher, finished with a season-low 49 yards on 14 carries.

McKinley, which finished its league slate at 5-1, also could have grabbed a share of the title if Jackson won Friday.

Instead, Hoover beat its two closest competitors in the league standings by a combined score of 62-7. The Vikings shut out McKinley 24-0 in Week 6.

“I just give Hoover credit,” said Jackson head coach Tim Budd, whose team likely will host a first-round playoff game next week in Division I, Region . “They were the better football team. They were more physical, and they were more physical all year watching them in the trade films. I always say physicality wins and they certainly were the best team in the Federal League this year.”

Friday could not have started off worse for Jackson.

Geissinger threw high on a screen pass intended for Craig. Hoover junior linebacker Jack McKelley picked it off and rumbled 23 yards for a 7-0 Vikings lead 49 seconds into the game.

“It felt so great to get that lead. Everybody was hype,” McKelley said. “I was just taking my route steps. I noticed he overthrew it and the ball went right into my hands. I didn’t know what to do, so I just started running toward the end zone.”

On Hoover’s first offensive possession (after the 6-4, 230-pound Logan had sacked Geissinger on third down to force a punt), Zander Bugara took a little pitch pass from quarterback Carson Dyrlund on a jet sweep to the short side, cut it up through an alley and ran 45 yards for the TD.

Geissinger, a former North Canton kid, got blasted by Shimek on the ensuing Jackson possession, fumbled the ball and did not return.

Luke Griguolo recovered the fumble, and three plays later it was Griguolo plowing in for a 1-yard touchdown run. Hoover led 21-0 with 1:16 left in the first quarter.

“Our D-line wanted to get home,” Baum said. “They wanted to send a message.”

Shimek forced another fumble late in the first half, this time stripping Craig and this time recovering it himself.

The Hoover offense went backwards, but senior Robby Smart bailed it out by drilling a line-drive 50-yard field goal with 58 seconds left to put Hoover up 24-0. The kick broke his own school record of 49 yards that he set three weeks ago against Perry.

“I just thought, let’s give him a shot here,” Baum said of Smart, who has missed a 45-yarder earlier. “Worst case, they get it at the 20. But he got it done. He’s got a great leg.”

When Luke Roach broke into the open and ran 71 yards for a touchdown with 7:13 left in the third quarter, the game went into running clock mode.

That run also pushed Roach over 100 yards rushing for the 10th straight game this season. The junior finished with 104 yards on 11 carries despite missing some snaps in the first half after a leg injury. Senior Jack Baxter added 66 yards on 11 carries.

Later in the third, Shimek’s pressure forced Jacob Fisher — one of three Jackson quarterbacks on the night — into an off-balance throw. McKelley snagged it for his second interception, which eventually led to Griguolo’s second 1-yard TD run. Hoover led 38-0.

Already sporting a league championship T-shirt after the game, with the Battle for the Rail trophy sitting at his feet, Baum tried to wrap his mind around the performance he had just witnessed from his team.

“I was expecting we’d have to win it in the fourth quarter, somehow, some way,” Baum said. “That’s just the way this game is.”

His players had other ideas Friday night.


Jackson – 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 7 

Hoover – 21 – 3 – 14 – 0 — 38 

First quarter 

H—McKelley 23 interception return (R.Smart kick), 11:11 

H—Bugara 45 pass from Dyrlund (R.Smart kick), 7:00 

H—Griguolo 1 run (R.Smart kick), 1:16 

Second quarter 

H—R.Smart 50 FG, :58 

Third quarter 

H—L.Roach 71 run (R.Smart kick), 7:13 

H—Griguolo 1 run (R.Smart kick), 3:08 

Fourth quarter 

J—Craig 16 run (Paxos kick), 7:24 


                     JAC     —     HOO 

First downs: 8     —     12 

Rushes-Yds: 24-80     —     37-210 

Passing Yds: 23     —     50 

Comp-Att-Int: 3-12-2     —     2-3-0 

Punts-Avg.:  5-47.4     —     3-43.3 

Fumbles-Lost: 2-2     —     0-0 

Penalties-Yds: 2-15     —     3-35 


PASSING—Jackson, Fisher 3-5-23-1, Geissinger 0-4-0-1, Lesco 0-3-0-0. Hoover, Dyrlund 2-3-50-0. 

RUSHING—Jackson, Craig 14-49, Lesco 5-28, Fisher 2-10, Geissinger 3-(minus 7). Hoover, L.Roach 11-104, Baxter 11-66, Dyrlund 9-34, Shimek 1-5, Bugara 1-2, Griguolo 2-2, Logan 1-1. 

RECEIVING—Jackson, Kistler 2-19, Phillips 1-4. Hoover, Bugara 1-45, Logan 1-5. 

Records: Jackson 8-2, 4-2; Hoover 8-2, 6-0. 

Source: Canton Repository