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Cleveland St. Ignatius 34 - Hoover 7

OHSSA Division 1 State Semifinal

November 23, 2008

Time runs out for Hoover

Chris Beaven, Canton Repository

MASSILLON  A tough final walk off the frozen turf of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium awaited them.

Once it began when the game clock hit zeros, the players on the Hoover High School football team knew it was over. Their season. Their state title dreams. Their time together as the winningest team in program history.

A 34-7 loss Saturday to powerful St. Ignatius in the Division I state semifinals ended it for the Vikings.

“It’s real tough,” Hoover senior defensive back Joe Cerreta said. “We’ve been through a lot together, a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs. We made it this far and we’ve got a lot of memories, the whole team.”

Unfortunately for the Vikings (12-2), they made few memories on a night that belonged to Ignatius. The Wildcats (13-1) advance to their first state championship game since 2001, when they won their ninth title. Ignatius plays Cincinnati Elder in the title game next Saturday at Fawcett Stadium.

“Sometimes, you wonder if you are ever going to get back there,” Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle said. “It’s a long road to get there.”

It’s a road Hoover has not traveled in a long time. Playing in their first state semifinal since 1986, the Vikings were looking to join the 1984 Vikings as the only teams in program history to play in a state title game.

“After last year and getting to the final eight, this was supposed to be a rebuilding deal for us,” Hoover coach Don Hertler Jr. said. “It says a lot for our kids and the work they put in. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We got beat by a better team.”

Ignatius overwhelmed Hoover from the outset. It was 20-0 before Hoover gained a first down.

Ignatius quarterback Andrew Holland opened the game by completing his first eight passes on his way to a 245-yard night. And the Ignatius defense forced three quick three-and-outs as Hoover gained 2 yards during its first nine plays.

“We had to establish the run and didn’t do that,” Hertler said. “And they threw the ball extremely well, which we knew would be an issue.”

Hoover’s lone offensive highlight came on the first play of the second quarter when its star tailback, Erick Howard, finally got some room to operate. The junior blasted through a hole on a third-and-six. He bounced off an Ignatius defender at the 50, spun to his right and took off for a 53-yard touchdown run.

It was the only time Howard found daylight against the Ignatius 3-4 defensive front.

“We decided not to crowd the line because sometimes by playing back a little, you can see the blocking patterns and get a little perspective,” Kyle said. “Except for the one run, it worked. That one run, though, showed he’s a good back.”

Howard finished with 14 carries for 83 yards, all in the first half. He may have broken his hand during the game and was held out of the second half after a kickoff return. Howard finishes with 2,387 yards on 404 carries — the fourth-most prolific rushing season in Stark County history.

“He had a great year, and our team had a great year,” Hertler said.

Saturday, though, Ignatius had too much for Hoover to sustain any success on either side of the ball.

“Give them credit,” Cerreta said. “They’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of athletes, and they play hard.”

Holland spread the ball around to three receivers and his tight end to lead Ignatius to two quick TDs. And when Hoover went three-and-out on its third series, the Ignatius special teams got into the act. Seamus Siefring blocked the punt, and Pat Hinkel scooped it up at the 5 and scored with 2:29 left in the quarter.

Before it got out of hand, Howard got loose for his 53-yard TD run to make it 20-7.

“We needed to get a (defensive) stop then,” Hertler said.

But Holland led Ignatius back down the field for a 27-7 lead by halftime. Ignatius remained in control the rest of the way. The Vikings never backed down, though.

“I’m tremendously proud of our kids. … We kept battling,” Hertler said.

Cerreta and Dan Nettleton each came up with interceptions. The Vikings also made a goal-line stand late in the third quarter. But it wasn’t enough to prevent a tough final walk off the field together.

“That hits you right when the clock strikes zero that it’s over,” Cerreta said. “But we’re all still friends, and we’re all still Hoover Vikings.”

Source: fridaynightohio.com