Late turnovers help Canton pull away from Heroes
CANTON — Just when things couldn’t get worse, they kept getting worse.
That was the story of the Huntington Heroes Thursday night as they fell to the Canton Legends 76-43 in the first round of the American Indoor Football Association playoffs before an estimated crowd of 300.
“Things just didn’t start out well for us at all,” said Heroes head coach Garry McPeek. “We felt that we were in control of everything and we just let things get out of control tonight.”
Before leaving Huntington, the Heroes faced a major lineup change as center Luke Salmons was unable to make the trip because of a final exam he had to take.
As a result, Chris Barnes shifted from guard to center and Wes Jones made his first start at guard.
Right out of the gate, Huntington got off to a rough start as it went three and out. Adam Jones nailed a 52-yard field goal and rouge on the kickoff to give Huntington its only lead at 4-0.
Canton answered as Kevin Mason found Cornelius White for an 18-yard touchdown pass. John McClain added the extra point and a rouge to go up 8-4 with 7:54 left in the first.
Mason finished 12 of 18 for 158 yards and five touchdown passes.
Huntington’s problems continued on the first play of its second possession as Dane Damron fumbled the exchange from center. Eddie Robinson recovered the ball in the end zone to extend the Legends lead to 15-4.
“Our timing was off in the first couple possessions,” said Heroes head coach Garry McPeek. “Getting the ball back there was the problem early.”
The Heroes tied the score early in the second quarter as Adam Jones made a 25-yard field goal that finished off a nine-play drive that consumed over six and a half minutes.
Mason found White again from 14-yards out to push Canton’s lead to 29-21 to finish off the scoring for the first half.
In the third quarter, Canton widened its lead as Mason found White again for a nine-yard touchdown pass. Another rouge from McClain gave Canton a 37-21 lead.
White finished with seven receptions for 99 yards and five touchdowns.
“White is the best receiver in the league,” said McPeek. “And if he’s not, then I want someone to show me who is.”
Damron found James Hawkins for the second time with a 12-yard touchdown throw. Jones added a rouge of his own to make the score 37-29 with 9:15 left in the third.
The Heroes were never able to cut into the Legend lead, as both teams ended up scoring 22 points a piece in the third period.
The biggest news of the game came in the third, when Mason was injured with about five minutes left in the period. Scott McMullen came in to replace the injured Mason.
As it had been all night, Huntington’s bad luck resurfaced in the final period.
Huntington trailed 51-43 going into the fourth quarter looking to make its move and get even with Canton, but it never seemed to happen.
“They kept a consistent eight point lead for most of the game,” said McPeek. “I made the decision that if we were to tie the game at some point, I was going to go for an onside kick to get back in the game, but we never got close enough.”
Canton went on to score 25 unanswered points in what put an exclamation point on an evening of bad luck for Huntington.
Even with the game being out of hand, McPeek was proud of his team’s effort and composure. This wasn’t only limited to this particular game, but the whole season in general.
“The character of this team was the most impressive thing this season,” said McPeek. “There were times this season when things were going wrong, but these guys stayed together and lead us to where we were tonight.”
Dane Damron finished the night 14 of 35 for 200 yards and four touchdown passes.
Gerald Clark led all receivers with seven receptions for 83 yards a touchdown. Hawkins finished with 3 catches for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
Donte Newsome, the league leader in rushing touchdowns added another one to his total on the year.
Defensive end Jamus Martin, who was snubbed from the AIFA All-Star team, added another sack and combined for one, as he finished the season with 20 sacks on the year.
Huntington finishes the year 10-5, it’s best record in its two years of existence.
Canton will now face the winner of the Reading and Pittsburgh game this Saturday night.
Huntington12 922 0=43
Hu - Adam Jones 52 field goal 12:17
Hu - Rouge 12:17
Ca - Cornelius White 18 pass from Kevin Mason (John McClain kick) 7:54
Ca - Rouge 7:54
Ca - Eddie Robinson fumble recovery (McClain kick) 6:33
Hu - Donte Newsome 3 run (Jones kick) 3:34
Hu - Rouge 3:34
Hu - Jones 25 field goal 8:47
Ca - Randall Lane 26 pass from Mason (McClain kick) 6:48
Hu - James Hawkins 14 pass from Damron (Jones kick) 2:41
Ca - White 14 pass from Mason (McClain kick) :08
Ca - White 9 pass from Mason (McClain kick) 12:42
Ca - Rouge 12:42
Hu - Hawkins 12 pass from Damron (Jones kick) 9:15
Hu - Rouge
Ca - Lane 24 pass from Mason (McClain kick) 7:04
Hu - Gerald Clark 20 pass from Damron (Jones kick) 5:14
Ca - White 8 pass from Scott McMullen (McClain kick) 1:26
Hu - Rod McNeal 20 pass from Damron (Jones kick) :00
Ca - White 19 pass from McMullen (kick failed) 12:27
Ca - Rouge 12:27
Ca - McClain 24 field goal 7:43
Ca - Lane 10 pass from McMullen (McClain kick) 4:30
Ca - Tim Smith 50 interception return (McClain kick) 2:00
Ca - Rouge 2:00
Time of Possession31:3128:29
RUSHING - Canton: Doug Schwaberow 7-24, Mason 2-5, McMullen 1-1; Huntington: Newsome 6-14, Damron 1-(-5).
PASSING - Canton: Kevin Mason 12-18-158, Scott McMullen 6-9-74; Huntington: Dane Damron 14-35-200.
RECEIVING - Canton: Cornelius White 7-99, Maurice Lee 7-76, Randall Lane 4-57; Huntington: Gerald Clark 7-83, James Hawkins 3-41, Rod McNeal 2-51, Shane Holsinger 2-25.