Hoover 23 - Jackson 29
On the night after Halloween, things got downright eerie at Memorial Stadium.
Two years after stuffing Hoover at the 1 in a double overtime road victory in Week 10, the Jackson football team did it again in front of the same end zone, making a huge goal line stand to hold on for a 29-23 victory on Friday night.
On fourth-and-goal at the 5, Vikings quarterback Connor Ashby hit running back Adam Griguolo on a screen pass on the left side. Griguolo caught it at the 6, turned up field and was sandwiched by Brett Blauner in front and Joe Ackerman from behind. Griguolo fell forward and landed on Blauner, sliding just past the goal line. But he was ruled down at the 1 with 11 seconds left.
“I thought he was in,” Vikings coach Brian Baum said. “The football gods should have had us get that one.”
While the stop brought to mind the game-ending play from two years ago when Jackson stopped Brady Nist at the 1 and eventually popped the ball out, Jackson coach Tim Budd had visions of last year’s rivalry game, when Griguolo took a screen pass 44 yards with 75 seconds left to lift Hoover.
“That’s how they beat us last year,” Budd said. “We practiced it, but the kid almost got in anyway.”
Ethan Adkins carried 41 times for 236yards and four touchdowns for Jackson (8-2, 4-2), which clinched a Division I playoff spot. Adkins needed 101 yards to pass Ricky Spradling for the school’s single-season rushing record and reached it before halftime. (He also missed a pair of plays in the second quarter getting up-close and personal with a large black trash can.)
“I’m feeling good,” Akins said afterward. “I was under the weather this week, but I’m happy to get the dub (win).”
When asked how he felt after last year’s loss, Adkins said, “I remember saying we’ll be back — with a chip on my shoulder.”
Hunter Geissinger completed 12 of 18 passes for 154 yards and carried for the game-clinching quarterback sneak on the final play for the Polar Bears.
Afterward, Budd’s teeth and gums were crusted over with blood, a consequence of his habit of biting his cheek during big games.
“These games take it out of you,” Budd said. “You want it so bad for your kids but it’s out of your control. They’ve got to make plays at the end and they did.”
Griguolo carried 22 times for 164 yards and two TDs for Hoover (5-5, 2-4), which finished ninth in the Division II, Region 5 standings. The Vikings finished 10th in Region 7 last season and have not made the postseason since 2012. Hoover fell behind 23-7 early in the third quarter, but Griguolo scored on runs of 64 and 7 yards and Ashby converted two two-point conversions to tie the game on the first play of the fourth quarter.
After the teams traded punts, Jackson took the 29-23 lead on Adkins’ 11-yard touchdown run with 4:03 left. Hoover started the ensuing drive at its own 25 and drove down the field over the next 14 plays before the game-winning stop on fourth down.
“Five years Coach Baum and I have been in this rivalry and five years it’s come right down to the end,” Budd said. “I said we were going to win or lose with our defense. It’s been our backbone all year and they (manned) up and got the job done. It’s a gritty group.”
Ashby completed 8 of 17 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown and ran 10 times for 58 yards for Hoover, which earned a share of last year’s Federal League title but dropped to 23-27 in Baum’s five years with the program.
“I’m real proud of the kids’ effort,” Baum said. “I know people talk about our defense (struggles) and I understand, but we lost a lot of guys off our defense and the next guy comes up each week and we get a little better. We shuffled some guys around and I’m proud of the way we came out tonight and fought. I hope the community is proud of the effort, too.”