By Greg gulas
The Boardman Spartans joined the Federal League in 2004 and in eight seasons have never won their first two conference contests.
After stopping North Canton Hoover, 14-6 at Spartan Stadium, they not only won their third consecutive league outing but find themselves now in uncharted territory; atop the league standings and tied with Canton GlenOak (6-0, 3-0).
Allen Starkey scored twice and the Spartans defense held Hoover to minus-39 yards rushing and defeated the Vikings for the third straight year.
“We’ve always said that defense wins championships, especially in the tough Federal League and that is what you saw from us tonight; a great defensive effort,” said Boardman coach Mark D’Eramo.
“Give credit to defensive coordinator Mike Popio and his staff because they had an excellent game plan in what proved to be some rather challenging weather,” D’Eramo said.
Boardman (4-2, 3-0) came into the game averaging 32 points a game while their defense had allowed just 16 total points in league play.
Having to alter their line-up offensively with leading rusher Devin Campbell (727 yards in five games) sidelined with a concussion, the Spartans relied on Starkey and quarterback Ryan Pollifrone, and an offensive line that is considered one of the best in the area.
“We feel that our offensive line is one of our biggest strengths and they proved it more than once tonight,” said Pollifrone. “They dug in and got the job done when they had to and that is why they are one of the best in both the area and the league.”
Starkey’s 45-yard reception from Pollifrone with just 18 seconds remaining in the opening period staked the Spartans to the early 7-0 advantage.
The Vikings’ Austin Feinberg caught a 20-yard scoring strike from Austin Appleby at 6:14 of the second period, Hoover trailed 7-6.
After a scoreless third period and with time winding down in the fourth quarter, Starkey capped a 10-play, 44-yard drive that consumed 4:28 off the clock, scoring from 4 yards out to stretch the Boardman lead to 14-6.
Appleby, who was 11 of 35 through the air for 154 yards in the game, then directed the Vikings down the field, completing four passes and with the help of an interference call, had a first-and-goal at the Boardman 6 with 1:28 left in the game.
Three straight incompletions by Appleby then set the stage for one final pass, which was picked off by the Spartans’ Leslie McIntosh to ensure Boardman’s victory.