Craig's monster night leads Jackson football past Nordonia

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Nordonia wide receiver Cooper Rusk runs the ball ahead during a gamer against Medina Highland earlier this year.

JACKSON TOWNSHIP — Most Stark County football fans had their eyes focused on Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Nov,. 6, but there was another game in town.

While the stakes weren't as high when Jackson played host to Nordonia at Robert Fife Stadium, there was still pride and the chance to end the season on a high note for both teams.

To that end, it's the Polar Bears who head into the offseason feeling much better about themselves — particularly junior running back Brandon Craig.

Jackson scored 34 unanswered points in the first half and ran away with an 40-7 victory over the Knights.

Jackson finished the season at 5-5, while Nordonia ended the year at 5-6. 

Jackson coach Tim Budd paid tribute to his team for improving throughout the season, as as the Polar Bears finished on a three-game winning streak.

"When we were 2-5 after so many heartbreaking losses, we came together closer as a team," Budd said. "It's speaks volumes that we were able to keep going and get better.This is something we can build on for the future.

"We've got progressively better throughout the season," Budd added. "Tonight, we were able to hit some big runs. Brandon Craig is very fast. We some huge plays tongiht. 

One week after breaking the 200-yard barrier vs. Louisville, Craig broke the school record for rushing yards, running for 355 yards and four touchdown on 25 carries.

"It's our last game. It's something I wanted do," Craig said. "Our offensive line did a great job. They were moving forward all night. I like being able to make those guys happy."

The Knights inability to stop the run hurt them again, as Jackson had an edge of 517-295 in total yards.

"That's a good that played a very good game," Nordonia coach Jeff Fox said of the Polar Bears. "Some thing didn't go our way tonight. It didn't matter who we had in, we just didn't execute offensively."

Nordonia started the game well, forcing the Polar Bears to go three and out.

The Knights then marched 45 yards before quarterback Billy Levak ran in a 3-yard TD run to make it 7-0 with 8:28 left in the first quarter.

That was the last offensive highlight for the Knights. 

Jackson responded with an 8-play, 77-yard drive, which ended with Jackson quarterback Hunter Geissinger hit Johnny Kulich with 29-yard TD pass. The extra point was no good.

Geissinger had an efficient night, going 11-of-15 for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Jackson then took advantage of two Nordonia miscues. First, the Polar Bears stuff Nordonia's Shane Robinson for a two-yard gain on fourth-and-4 at the Nordonia 26. 

Four plays later, Griffin McKinney plunging in from 5 yards out to make it 13-7.

Then, after Nordonia's Joel Jones fumbled, Craig ran in a 19-yard touchdown, giving Jackson 20-7 lead after one quarter. 

The second quarter was when Craig really got in gear, as Jackson's counter play would yield three touchdowns of 60 yards or more.

Craig busted loose for 63-yard TD run with 9:25 left in the second quarter to make it 27-7.

The Knights then looked to have Jackson pinned when a punt rolled dead inside the 5. However, after a couple of runs got them away from the end zone, Craig broke loose again, running down the left sideline fore 62-yard score.

Nordonia continued to shoot itself in the foot. The Knights next drive ended when Levak was picked off in the end zone by Kulich, send the game to halftime at 34-7.

Nordonia's opening drive of the second half saw them drive inside the Jackson 10, On fourth and goal, however, Levak's pass into the end zone fell incomplete.

Both offenses were in neutral in the third quarter, until Craig broke free for his longest run of the night. 

With 3.07 left in the third, Craig ran another counter down the left sideline and scored 68-yard touchdown to invoke the running clock.

Levak finished his final game as a Knight going 16-of-34 for 184 yards and an interception. The Knights had numerous dropped passes on the night. 

Jon Henderson led the Knight receiving corp with 61 yards on three catches.

"I'm grateful we were able to play this year," Fox said. "This group kept working hard throughout the season under some very tough circumstances.":