BARBERTON: Cuyahoga Falls coach Sean Flaherty wants to “grind people up” with his run-heavy offense. Flaherty and the Black Tigers succeeded in a 25-15 win over Barberton in the Battle For The Bell on Friday night.
All but five plays stayed on the ground for the Black Tigers, who rushed for 202 yards of their 216 yards (14 passing yards on one completion) in Flaherty’s first game at the helm. The Black Tigers scored on quarterback keepers, a counter and a couple of toss plays to the outside.
Falls fans can expect more of the same — the Black Tigers are sticking with the run and running with authority. Friday night was somewhat of a test run — sorry — and the offensive line and backfield received an A.
“Our offensive line stepped up huge tonight, and we know we’ll be able to run this offense,” Flaherty said. “This will be our identity. We want to be a run-first offense. You gotta be patient and just keep grinding people up and wear them down and win in the fourth quarter.”
Barberton entered the game trying to match power with quickness, taking advantage of a couple of end-arounds. The Magics defense just couldn’t stop enough third-and-shorts to get the offense back on the field.
“They’re big, and they out-physicaled us tonight,” Barberton coach Jeff Sharkey said. “We were hoping to counteract with speed and just couldn’t do it. They earned this victory.”
Flaherty called on three running backs. Senior Bucky Hendershot led Falls with 98 yards on 16 carries. Junior Drake Reid added 50 yards and had two touchdowns. And junior Bret Blevins ran for 54 yards on seven carries.
Reid found the end zone, but Hendershot was the workhorse, at both the fullback and tailback positions as well as having an impact on the other side of the ball as a linebacker. Hendershot had several tackles for a loss and a couple of tackles just short of the first-down marker.
“He’s just a heck of a kid,” Flaherty said of Hendershot. “He works hard in everything he does — in the weight room, in the class room, on the field. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Barberton was led by senior John Cominsky, who threw for 96 yards on 11-of-22 passing with two interceptions and ran for 137 yards. He accounted for all but 29 yards that the Magics gained.
Cominsky recently was converted to quarterback and was more dangerous on quarterback keepers than when in the pocket. But Sharkey saw progress Friday night.
“For not having much experience at quarterback, he played wonderful,” Sharkey said. “He’s just a great athlete.”
The Black Tigers first grabbed a lead thanks to two interceptions and a bad snap on a punt by Barberton that put Falls 11 yards from the end zone. Falls had only 78 yards of offense in the first half but early in the third quarter led 18-7.
“We’re a young team so it was good to see we could take those opportunities and take advantage of them,” Flaherty said.
Cominsky responded with a 55-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper, and the Magics converted a 2-point try, making it 18-15.
The Black Tigers, controlling the clock, were too much for the Magics defense to slow down.
Reid’s second touchdown on the night came on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Needing to again make it a one-possession game, Cominsky faced a fourth-and-7 and was sacked by junior Jacob Maclellan, all but ending the game.
Falls senior quarterback Mike Kaser didn’t throw much but rushed for a touchdown on a quarterback sneak in the third quarter and also ended a Barberton scoring threat at the end of the first half when he intercepted a pass at the goal line.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.