BEVERLY - Eric Huck had been getting doused after late-season Fort Frye wins on the gridiron - but not last Saturday in Zanesville.
"I was already wet from all the rain," said the FFHS head football coach, whose Cadets (8-2) clinched a berth in the Ohio Division V playoffs with a dramatic 34-28 come-from-behind triumph over Rosecrans at John D. Sulsberger Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
Fort Frye hadn't been in the postseason since 2000 when it actually hosted a playoff game and lost to Johnstown Northridge, 20-6, in the opening round. Back then, B.J. Scott was the boss, and he guided the Cadets to a 9-2 record.
PAM BROOKER Special to The Times
Fort Frye’s Justin Massey (9) follows his Cadet blockers during a kick return.
Fast-forward to 2012, and The Fort will be on the road in the playoffs this time - in northwest Ohio, in a community not too far from Cleveland. At 7 p.m. this Saturday, the Cadets, who are ranked No. 8 in Region 17, will face top-ranked and defending D5 state champion Kirtland.
Oh, yes, the Hornets are also undefeated at 10-0.
Not surprisingly, this will be the first grid meeting between Fort Frye and Kirtland.
"We exchanged film," said Huck, who was on the road Sunday morning after the Saturday night win against Rosecrans. "We met halfway in Dover."
No doubt, during the trip north on Interstate-77 North, Huck was probably reliving the game from the night before - and what a great win it was.
"Those guys made it happen," Huck said. "They wanted to make the playoffs, and they battled back."
Indeed, they did.
After a scoreless first quarter, The Fort drew first blood against Rosecrans and led 7-0. The Bishops however got a touchdown just before the half, and it was all tied up at 7 apiece.
After the break, Fort Frye found itself in a hole as Rosecrans scored three touchdowns and led 28-14 late in the third quarter.
"I think we were a little shell-shocked at that point," Huck said.
Shell-shocked perhaps, but far from out of the game.
With 34 seconds left in the period, the Cadets cut it to 28-20 on quarterback Chandler Lang's one-yard run.
In the fourth quarter, Fort got two more scores on TDs by Spencer Lang and Max Alsbach, respectively. Alsbach's one-yard run, which proved to be the game-winner, capped a 10-play, 91-yard drive.
Rosecrans still had a chance to pull it out, but the Cadet defense rose to the challenge and got a stop. Game over, and let's go to the playoffs.
What a long and winding journey the 2012 football campaign has been for Fort Frye, which broke even at 5-5 the previous season.
In its season opener in Hannibal, Fort was thumped 38-13 by the playoff-bound River Pilots. The Cadets recovered, though, with wins against Belpre and Waterford, respectively.
But then, Fort Frye went on the road in West Virginia on Sept. 14, and got drilled by Madonna, 49-6, in a non-conference game.
"Yes, we were 2-2 at one point in the season," Huck said.
The Fort was 2-2 with a key Pioneer Valley Conference matchup with visiting and defending league champion Monroe Central next on the slate on Sept. 21.
Fort Frye had not defeated Jay Circosta-coached Monroe Central since winning a 24-0 decision in 2000, the year of its one and only playoff appearance. Prior to that, the Cadets hadn't beaten the Seminoles since 1985 when they were known then as the Woodsfield Redskins.
To say The Fort was due would be putting it mildly. All the Cadets did on that Friday night in Beverly was blank Monroe Central, 27-0. And, yes, Huck got happily doused in the aftermath.
"That win against Monroe Central was big for us," Huck said. "It gave us confidence, and we realized then that we were a pretty good football team."
Since the Monroe Central victory, Fort Frye has tacked on five more wins, claimed a share of the PVC crown - and clinched a berth in the playoffs.
Now, it's on to Kirtland in Lake County.
"We know that Kirtland is very good," Huck said.
The Hornets, who compete in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division, are quarterbacked by senior Scott Eilerman, and led by 6-foot, 170-pound senior tailback Damon Washington, who rushed for 1,385 yards on 104 carries and 28 touchdowns this past fall.
In Tiger Laverde-coached Kirtland's regular-season finale, Washington rushed for 128 yards on 12 attempts and three scores in a 63-28 win over Independence. Adam Hess, a 5-11, 210-pound sophomore, added 108 yards and a TD as the Hornets amassed 580 yards of total offense.
Fort Frye's defense figures to get tested.
But the Cadets hope to do the same to Kirtland's "D" with the likes of Chandler Lang, Spencer Lang, Max Alsbach, Justin Massey, and Tyser Shilling.
"That's been a big part of our success this season, being able to spread the ball around and making the defense play us honest," Huck said.