JACKSON TOWNSHIP: It was either going to be a definitive night in the Federal League or a night in which the league race took on the look of scrambled eggs.
It turned out to be a definitive all right. Scrambled eggs not on the menu.
Jackson made a statement that echoed throughout Stark County, from Uniontown to Canton to Massillon, with a convincing 35-10 victory over visiting GlenOak.
With the Polar Bears remaining undefeated and McKinley holding on to slip past Lake in double overtime, the league took on a distinctive look as the second half of the season got underway.
Jackson (6-0, 3-0) and McKinley (5-1, 3-0) are on top with the others in their rearview mirrors.
The tie will be broken in seven days when the rejuvenated and state-ranked Polar Bears and Bulldogs meet in a Saturday Night Special at Canton Central Catholic, McKinley’s temporary home during the renovation of the former Fawcett Stadium. The stadium will not be big enough.
Jackson, standing first in the all-important Division I, Region 1 computer rankings, struck quickly and often in dropping the Eagles to 4-2 and 2-1 and invoking the running clock rule for the second week in a row.
The Polar Bears, usually led by senior skill players Dillon Dingler and Jack Dear, scored on their first three possessions in building a 21-3 halftime lead, then scored twice in the third quarter to ignite the running clock and decide the issue.
On Homecoming Night, it was a pair of juniors who took center stage. Quarterback Jaret Pallotta and receiver Zach Beaulieu were a tandem for which the Golden Eagles had no answer.
The 6-foot-6, 185-pound Pallotta completed 11-of-16 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns. Three of those scores went to the 5-10, 175-pound Beaulieu, who finished with five receptions for 134 yards.
“They tried to cover us man-to-man on every third down play,” said Pallotta, who went over the 1,000-yard mark in passing yards and doubled his TD passing total to 10. “We had a great game plan. When they went to man there was no help in the middle. They just went man and brought the house.”
Beaulieu said it was a team effort — the Jackson defense kept the Eagles out of the end zone until senior Abe Billings caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback JJ Olivera with 3:47 remaining and Jackson on top 35-3 — but said GlenOak had a hard time in the man-to-man coverage.
“That left mostly everything open,” he said. “I just try to do whatever I can to help the team.”
GlenOak, unranked in the Associated Press poll but sixth in the computer poll, lost running back Elijah Ladson with cramping problems late in the third quarter. To that point the hard-running Ladson accounted for the bulk of the offense with 97 yards on 20 carries.
“We didn’t play very well, but give all the credit to them,” GlenOak coach Scott Garcia said. “Pallotta was on fire and Dingler is probably the best football player in the [Stark] county. We have to move on. It doesn’t get any easier for us. Our schedule is brutal.”
The Golden Eagles play perennial state title contender Cleveland St. Ignatius next week.
Jackson opened the game with a diversified 12-play, 75-yard scoring drove as Pallotta completed four of his first six passes and Dear and Dingler pounded the line. The payoff came on a 14-yard completion to Beaulieu. The second drive didn’t take as long as Pallotta and Dingler hooked up on a 75-yard score on the third play of the possession.
“Zach is an important part of our offense,” Jackson coach Tim Budd, who has engineered the turnaround while striving for a physical and aggressive approach, said. “He was banged up early in the season, but he is an option. He was able to break free and make some receptions.”
Dingler, who will attend Ohio State on a baseball scholarship, caught four passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He also punted four times for a 45.8-yard average, twice pinning the Eagles in the shadow of their goal line.
GlenOak failed to convert on third-and-4 after driving to the Jackson 5-yard line early in the second quarter behind Ladson’s bullish running and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Dean Sarris when a touchdown was sorely needed.