Story by Ryan Isley | Photos by Mike Cook
PARMA, Ohio — When push came to shove in the Division II state semifinals, Archbishop Hoban showed the heart that has made the Knights state champions in five of the past six seasons.
After Avon tied the game 24-24 with 7:57 left, the Knights went 64 yards in 10 plays, with the drive ending on a 15-yard touchdown run by Lamar Sperling with 1:47 remaining to seal their 31-24 win Friday at Byers Field.
“We just kept telling each other we had to get yards, open up holes and make big plays,” Hoban quarterback Jayvian Crable said. “We came out and made big plays, and we ended up driving down and scoring.”
The defense held up its end of the deal when the Eagles got the ball back, forcing a turnover on downs to end the game and send the Knights to Canton, where they will play Winton Woods in the Division II state championship game Thursday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“The great thing for us is we were really able to eat the clock on that last drive,” Hoban coach Tim Tyrrell said. “We were trying to have them eat a little more clock, but you can’t tell Lamar not to score there.”
The defense held an Avon team that was averaging 44.8 points per game this season to just 14 first-half points and then just 10 more in the second half.
“The defense stepped up,” Tyrrell said. “That’s an offense that scores a lot of points. And we held them to 24, and 24 was enough tonight.”
Sperling again led the Hoban offense, this time with 270 yards rushing on 30 carries. That puts the junior at 1,290 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns in the playoffs.
He has 2,813 yards rushing and 41 touchdowns for the season.
“Sperling is Sperling,” Tyrrell said.
Crable played what Tyrrell called his best overall game as a Knight, as he completed four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 103 yards on seven carries.
“He had some big runs and some big throws,” Tyrrell said. “He answered. He played tough. It was huge.”
Sperling, who ran eight times for 33 yards in Hoban’s 35-6 win over Massillon in the state championship game last year, is looking forward to a return to Canton but knows it won’t be easy.
“Going back to the state championship means a lot because I can finally show them what I can do,” Sperling said. “This game coming up means a lot, but we will have to work hard and stay humble.”
The trip to the state championship game might come as a surprise to some, as the Knights have heard the doubters from Day One this season. Despite being the defending Division II state champions, Hoban was without Shane Hamm, who had been the starting quarterback for four years, and had to replace numerous defensive starters.
“They took it to heart at the beginning of the year that people were saying this is an off year for Hoban,” Tyrrell said. “They heard it. They stayed off social media. We didn’t banter back and forth.”
Despite having a lot of new faces at the beginning of the season and going through some growing pains, Hoban has formed a bond at the right time of the year, and now the Knights need one more win.
“We are young and inexperienced, but we are still going back to the dance,” Tyrrell said. “They are playing with heart as if they are the same teams that came before them. I am damn proud of them.”