For the first time this year, the Boardman football team has tasted defeat in the Federal League.
The Spartans dropped to 2-1 in the rugged conference when they were easily handled by North Canton Hoover. 42-20 in Canton on Oct. 5. Despite being vanquished by the Vikings last Friday, the Spartans still have a chance to claim their second straight Federal crown. Canton McKinley leads the league at 3-1 while the Spartans are in a three-way tie for second with Canton GlenOak and Massillon Perry. Boardman has beaten both of those schools already. The Spartans are also above .500 (4-3) overall this season and still harbor slim hopes for making the Division I playoffs for the second straight season.
One of the reasons why the Spartans are still in the postseason hunt is because their offense can score a plateful of points. Take away blow out losses to Cardinal Mooney and Austintown Fitch, and the Spartans have scored 20 or more points in every other contest. The Spartans have even eclipsed 40 points on two occasions.
Boardman was halfway to forty last Friday when time ran out. Granted, the Spartans were behind 42-7 and were in complete catch up mode the entire second half, but they moved the ball well in desperation.
The two-headed monster of John Babos and Turel Thompson has been leading the way offensively for the Spartans. Babos battled injuries against Hoover, but still finished with 55 yards rushing and a touchdown. The bruising 225-pound signal caller has been the thunder for the Spartans while the slimmer, speedier Thompson has created the lightning. Thompson scored on a 4-yard run versus the Vikings and has been used as a completely confusing option to Babos' barbaric style.
"This may be the fastest team we've had since I've been here," said Boardman head coach Mark D'Eramo earlier this season. "We have a good mix of speed and strength up front."
Defensively, Boardman has been bright against some high-powered offensive opponents due to that aforementioned strength. Leading the way for the Spartans' "D" has been powerful seniors Ryan Ebie and Doug Brandt and junior Justin Babos. John Babos has been bullying opponents on the other side of the ball too about as much as he has as a rushing quarterback.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in Boardman this year has been in the turnover department. Hoover was able to score three times in the final two minutes of the first half last Friday partly due to the five turnovers committed by the Spartans. That turned a close game into a five touchdown Vikings' lead.
Boardman will need to avoid the turnover bug in its final three games this year if it is to advance to week 11. All three remaining games will be against Federal foes starting this week when Massillon Jackson comes to Boardman. The 3-4 Polar Bears are struggling mightily in the conference where they are winless. This may be the type of team the Spartans need to play to get back on track. It is doubtful if Jackson has the type of athleticism to combat the Spartans' speedy skill players.
Things will get a lot more difficult in weeks nine and 10 when Boardman entertains league leading Canton McKinley then high-octane Uniontown Lake. Winning three in a row should give the Spartans at least a share of their second straight league belt. Any subpar performances like the one last week at Hoover will have the Spartans home in November.