September 17, 2006

Ohio makes clean sweep in Massillon

While the Ohio State Buckeyes were battling against Cincinnati in a match-up of teams from Ohio, three Ohio high schools were taking on opponents from outside the state borders and carrying the banner for Ohio football against some of the top teams in the nation.

Hilliard Davidson, Lakewood St. Edward and Massillon Washington all had games on Saturday in the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge at Paul Brown stadium in Massillon and it was a good day for Ohio football with all three teams picking up big wins.

The first game of the afternoon saw Hilliard Davidson taking on St. Joseph's Prep out of the Philadelphia area. Davidson jumped out to an early lead on the foot of kicker Colby Catlett's 27 yard field goal to go up 3-0 in the first quarter.

It would remain that way until the second quarter when the Hawks of St. Joe's would get on the board when quarterback Chris Whitney connected with Tim Edger from 8 yards out to give St. Joe's the 7-3 lead. Hilliard Davidson would come roaring back with time winding down in the half when quarterback Connor Dietz finds Bo Delande from 5 yards out with 18 seconds left of the clock. Davidson converts on the point after and would go to the locker room with a 10-7 lead. Delande led Davidson on the ground with 129 yards on 21 carries for the contest.

St. Joe's would be led by running back Jamire Livingston's 183 yards on 24 carries. Livingston found pay dirt late in the third quarter from 1-yard out and with his score the Hawks led after three quarters, 14-10.

Everything was building up to a big fourth quarter performance and fans of Hilliard Davidson were not disappointed. The Wildcats controlled the ball for more than 9 minutes on a 17 play drive that covered 85 yards and ended up with a 6-yard touchdown run by Connor Dietz that gave Davidson the 17-14 lead.

St. Joe's had a little more than 3 minutes to mount one last drive and kick returner Brian Brinkmann put the Hawks in great position after returning the kickoff 65 yards and gave the road team a short field to work with. St. Joe's was able to pound it down into the red zone but saw the drive stall and would be forced to go for a game-tying 24 yard field goal to force overtime. Tim Edger missed the game typing effort as time expired and Davidson pulled out the come from behind win 17-14.

With the win Davidson has improved to 4-0 on the season but was able not only to win a big game for the State of Ohio but also able to show that Central Ohio football can play with the big boys on the national stage according to Davidson head coach Brian White.

"We didn't come up here just to play, we came up here to win," White said. "I feel like we were carrying a banner for Central Ohio more than the state of Ohio. We feel good about what we have done and we can't control what anybody else has done. We're just happy that we can maybe bring come recognition to Central Ohio because we know that the Northeastern Ohio and Southwestern Ohio boys think they (play better football) and they deservedly do until Central Ohio does something good on a more consistent basis, I agree, better football is played in other places but we are happy to represent Central Ohio as much as Ohio."

The second game of the afternoon would see St. Edward playing host to Springdale high school out of Arkansas. Springdale came into the game with a 2-0 record on the season but saw many of their senior leaders last year graduate and six players go on to play football on full-ride scholarships. St. Edward on the other hand has had more than it's fare share of college recruiters making the rounds with several big-time players. Nate Oliver has already given his verbal pledge to play for the Buckeyes, while Kyle Hubbard, Frank Edmonds, Diaunte Morrow, Jeff Lucas, and several other players have been hearing from schools.

St. Edward got on the scoreboard early and often on the legs of running back Frank Edmonds. Edmonds rumbled for 129 yards on the afternoon and found the end zone on 1, 2 and 4 yard runs. During the first drive of the game Edmonds showed good burst breaking off a 42-yard run down the sideline that set up his first score.

As impressive as the St. Ed's offense was early in the game was the St. Ed's defense as well. The Eagles forced three straight three-and-outs by Springdale and kept the Bulldogs from crossing the 50 almost the entire first half of the game. The St. Edward defense held Springdale to 42 passing yards the entire game.

St. Ed's seniors were not the only players to step up on Saturday. Junior quarterback Alex Sterba was efficient in limited passing action completing 6 of 8 passes but the most spectacular was to junior wide our Branden Williams who Sterba hit in stride for a 55-yard touchdown reception.

Nate Oliver waited until the second quarter to make his presence known to all in attendance. The Ohio State bound defensive back got a rise out of the crowd when midway through the second quarter he returned the first punt he touched 46 yards for the touchdown. The following series Oliver showed his defensive skills stepping in front of the Springdale pass and picked off Jeremy Paxton's pass and took it back for a 25 yard touchdown. Oliver was not done because in the very next series he got his second opportunity to return a punt and took it back 55 yards and was brought down inside the 5 yard line preventing Oliver from scoring three touchdowns in the span of a couple of minutes.

The Eagles took a 42-0 lead into halftime and was able to substitute liberally throughout the rest of the game and finished off Springdale with a 49-3 win to improve to 3-1 on the season and erase the bad taste left after a tough 10-7 loss to St. Xavier the week before.

"Hopefully it is a spring board where we can say we really came out we really did prepare to play, we executed and we took control of the game, " St. Edward coach John Gibbons said. "We know there is going to be other rough spots along the way, but the only thing that we can control is how the St. Edward football team plays."

With a difficult in-state schedule still awaiting St. Edward the team knew that they had a chance to show off the level of football from the state of Ohio. Senior captain Ben Kuhar felt the team had a lot of pride in their home state and wanted to prove that Ohio is one of the top states in football.

"I think we did a good job of representing Ohio," Kuhar said. "I think it adds to it, you have everyone coming here just to play Ohio. It just shows that Ohio is a good football state and we got to show it off."

The nightcap of the evening pitted hometown Massillon Washington against nationally ranked Hamilton high school from Chandler, Ariz. Paul Brown stadium was filled nearly to capacity as both teams brought their bands, cheerleaders and fans for the eagerly anticipated contest.

The game would be a back and forth battle and Massillon would strike first. After quarterback Bobby Huth connected with Brian Sheegog on a 60-yard bomb Brian Gamble knocked it in from a yard out to give the Tigers the 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

It only took 18 seconds for Hamilton to draw even when Brad Gruner found Kenny Taylor on a 66-yard touchdown pass to knot the score up at 7-all. The first quarter would end with a 7-7 tie, but that was just the beginning of what was shaping up to be a great game between two powerful programs.

The second quarter would start out being all Hamilton high school. After a Brent Blalock field goal to take a 10-7 lead the Huskies capped off another 1-play drive when Nathan Jeffrey broke an 80-yard touchdown run. Hamilton took a 10-point lead at that point and it appeared all the momentum had swung to the visitors from the desert.

The Tigers had a chance to close the gap when they let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. Massillon was driving and was getting close to punching it in when a fumble appeared to end the drive. Both teams were trying to fall on the ball and Massillon's Brian Sheegog had a chance to recover the fumble inside the 10 yard line but tried to pick it up and run with it and was unable to come up with the ball which Hamilton eventually fell on in the end zone for the touchback.

Hamilton never made it back on the scoreboard during the half and it wasn't until the closing moments of the half that Massillon was able to get back into the swing of things. Time was winding down inside 20 seconds when Bobby Huth his Brian Gamble near the sidelines. Gamble instead of going out of bounds to stop the clock turned back inside and on a third effort was able to break the plane of the goal and score the touchdown pulling the Hamilton defender in with him. Hamilton took the 17-14 lead into halftime but it appeared that momentum was starting to turn.

Massillon regained the lead in the third quarter when Brian Sheegog took the Bobby Huth pass in from 29 yard out and with that touchdown the Tigers took a 21-17 lead. A costly turnover by Massillon threatened to give the lead back to Hamilton when the Tigers couldn't field a punt cleanly and the Huskies recovered the fumble inside the 10 yard line. The mistake only resulted in a 25 yard field goal but with that the Massillon lead shrunk for 4 points to a single point, 21-20.

Andrew Dailey was not going to let the lead slip away. The Penn State bound defensive back came up with the play of the game when he picked of Hamilton's Brad Gruner and took it back for the 20 yard touchdown and the 28-20 Massillon lead after three quarters.

It was still a one possession game until midway through the fourth quarter when Gamble and Huth hooked up one last time, this time from 21 yards and that made it 35-20. Hamilton added a late touchdown to close the gap to 35-26 but that is as close as it would get.

The Tigers certainly showed no ill-effects from getting routed by Cincinnati Moeller last week with the big win and the Tigers feel that the season sets up well for them after the big win.

"Our offensive line picked things up and we expected big things out of them and everything went great," defensive back Andrew Dailey said. "Last week was a downfall; this week is going to put us up to the next level. We'll have more confidence; we're ready to roll now."

"It's a big confidence builder, I will tell you that right now," running back Brian Gamble said. " After losing to Moeller like that, some kids on the team hanging their head all the captains and seniors told them you got to keep fighting and plugging away things don't work out, but things worked out tonight."

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