It had been several years since the Cuyahoga Falls football team began a season with a victory.
That cold streak ended in style Aug. 30 at home as the Black Tigers routed Parma Normandy 62-0.
"To do it in front of our community in front of a jam-packed house was great," Cuyahoga Falls head coach Shane Parker said. "The band was great and our student section was outstanding. It was a real special night."
According to Parker, his team was firing on all cylinders.
"We had success on special teams, we had success defensively and we had success offensively," he said. "It’s a testament to how hard these guys worked all offseason in the weight room and how they translated matters to what we’re doing on the field, on the practice field, in the meeting rooms and in the classroom.
"The guys’ mantra all year is trying to outwork everybody, and they show up every day and punch the time clock. They were able to see some fruits of their labor, if you will, in this game. It was a great win for the guys."
Senior running back Rob Graves set a school record by scoring seven touchdowns. The old record of six was set by Tommy Froelich in 2001 against Barberton.
After senior Braunavan Arsenault returned a punt 60 yards to give Cuyahoga Falls a 6-0 lead early in the first quarter, Graves took control. Six of his touchdowns came in the first half. In the first quarter, he scored on runs of 45, 3, 18 and 5 yards as the Black Tigers built a 34-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Graves had touchdown runs of 3 and 35 yards to make the score 49-0 at halftime.
Parker kept his first string in for his team’s first possession of the third quarter to give Graves a shot at breaking the record. On the first play from scrimmage, Graves raced for a 58-yard touchdown run, the school record and a 56-0 Cuyahoga Falls lead.
"Rob earned the chance to break the record, and he answered the challenge," said Parker. "He has good vision. He’s very good at finding a crease in the defense and taking what’s there. He’s very smooth when it comes to running the football, too. He’s got good speed, but he’s also really strong and runs hard. It’s very rare that the first guy who hits him brings him down."
Graves wound up with 231 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The final score of the game came on a 21-yard touchdown run by junior Michael Craven in the third quarter.
According to the coach, it was a team effort.
"We count on all 11 guys doing their particular jobs," he said. "After watching the film, it was pretty clear to see that everybody was pretty invested, motivated, to do their jobs. They played their tails off.
"We didn’t throw one single pass, but some of our best blocks downfield came from our wide receivers. Even though they weren’t getting balls thrown to them, they were getting downfield and making great blocks."
Senior running back Hunter Stanley rushed the ball twice for 38 yards, junior running back Isaac Puchajda had four rushes for 27 yards. Arsenault, the quarterback, had a 19-yard run.
Parker was more than pleased with his team’s defensive effort.
"It was outstanding," he said. "Anytime you can get a shutout in today’s day and game with how high-powered offenses are, it’s a big plus. Normandy had some talented guys on the offensive side of the football and some really big linemen.
"It was a huge motivation boost for our defensive guys. It was really a testament to the fact that we were making plays when plays presented themselves. We had 11 hats flying to the football every single play. We did a really, really good job in pursuit of the football."
Leading the way with three tackles was sophomore lineman Nick Lambis. With two tackles apiece were senior linemen Donovan Mills and Jaren King and juniors Jared Andrews, a linebacker, and Garrett Neese, a defensive back.
Cuyahoga Falls is scheduled to host Akron Springfield Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.
The Black Tigers are set to travel to Barberton Sept. 13 also at 7 p.m.