BARBERTON — A fast start set the stage for an anticlimactic finish Friday night in Barberton.
The Magics scored on their first play from scrimmage when senior quarterback Chase Haywood threw a screen pass to senior receiver Ryan Watkins, who beat the entire Cuyahoga Falls defense down the right sideline to the end zone.
It was a bad omen for the Black Tigers.
Barberton (2-1) then forced three interceptions, including a pick-six by senior defensive back Tim Starcher, en route to a 35-7 halftime lead that concluded in a 56-21 victory over previously unbeaten Falls (2-1).
The game was moved up to a 6 p.m. start to beat forecast thunderstorms, but lightning led to the game being called with 6:51 remaining in the game.
"Heat lighting hit about 19 times [in the distance] during the third quarter," Barberton coach Anthony Gotto said. "It had gotten pretty close [in the fourth quarter]."
Barberton’s defense limited Falls senior running back Robert Graves to 88 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.
"He’s quick," Gotto said of Graves, who ran for more 200 yards in each of the first two games this season. "We’ve seen some good running backs so far this season. Our defense can bottle them up. We’ve got good defensive speed. We figured if we pursued the football and made good tackles we’d be successful, and we did that tonight."
Barberton did not allow a completed pass until midway through the third quarter when Falls senior quarterback Braunavan Arsenault threw a 25-yard touchdown to senior tight end Alex Rowan. Arsenault and Rowan connected later in the fourth quarter on a 55-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 49-21.
"Our defense played pretty well in the first half, but they scored three touchdowns on our starting defense," Gotto said. "Our defensive coordinator is going to be pretty upset. Some of the scores were breakdowns, and some were that kids were out of position because they were being too nosy."
Five players scored on offense for the Magics — Watkins, Vega, senior running backs Maliq Spragling and Kenneth Hood and sophomore running backs Cameron Macon and Markim Mckinnie.
"We have five or six guys who are big playmakers," Gotto said. "We had three different running backs rotating in, and five different receivers who can all score. I’m assuming that’s pretty hard to prepare for."
Senior Kaeleb Vega proved to be a difference maker on both sides of the ball. He had an interception that set up Barberton on the Black Tigers 23-yard line, and also had touchdown runs of 16 and three yards.