Louisville 43 - Hoover 36
When Louisville hired Jeff Twiddy this offseason, the Leopards didn’t just get a new coach.
They got a new identity.
The traditionally pass-happy Leopards ran 58 times for 255 yards to grind out a 43-36 win over visiting Hoover on Friday night in the 97th meeting between the rivals.
And while Louisville jumped out to a 21-0 lead thanks to a pair of successful onside kicks, it wasn’t until Hoover began its comeback that Twiddy finally started to see what he’s been trying to build over the last few months.
“The guys finally bought in halfway through the second quarter about what we want to be as a football team,” Twiddy said. “I’m glad that finally clicked because we’re different when we play like that for sure.”
When asked what he meant, Twiddy said, “Being a physical football team. Playing smash-mouth football and doing things the right way, the way football is supposed to be played.”
Louisville’s beefy offensive line wore down the Vikings, allowing the Leopards to have huge advantages in total plays (83-39) and first downs (27-16).
But it was Louisville’s defense that may have made the game-changing play. After the Leopards retook the lead on Davis Burick‘s 5-yard run with 5:49 remaining, Hoover got the ball back at its own 34 and quickly picked up 5 yards on two Adam Griguolo runs.
On third-and-5, Viking quarterback Connor Ashby tried to throw an out route to the left sideline, but Louisville DB Justin Broad jumped it, intercepting the pass at the Hoover 41 with 4:36 left.
“They’ve been throwing those out routes all night,” Broad said. “I’m good at breaking on the ball and I just broke on it.
“I just made a play for my team. Honestly, I felt the game was over (then).”
Louisville’s offensive line made sure of it. The Leopards ran six straight times — five by Connor Adelman — to pick up a first down at the Hoover 1. The Leopards then took three straight knees to run out the clock on a victory that was sure to raise expectations inside Louisville, and raise eyebrows everywhere else in Stark County
“We knew from the jump what we had all year long,” said Broad, whose team dropped a heart-breaker last week to Canfield. “People were doubting us, but we’ve been ready.”
Three Louisville running backs rushed for more than 60 yards, led by Adelman’s 25 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Nathan Guiley added 76 yards on 10 carries and Davis Burick had 12 carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 5-yard run with 5:49 remaining.
“When you can control the line of scrimmage, that’s what it looks like,” Twiddy said.
Colton Jones completed 15 of 24 passes for 180 yards for the Leopards (1-1), who were stuffed twice at the 1-yard line on the final two plays of the first half and had to settle for a 21-14 lead at the break.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Twiddy said of going for the touchdown. “I thought our kids could get the push to get in. We responded well.”
Ashby completed 12 of 16 passes for 225 yards for the Vikings (1-1), who took their final lead, 36-35, on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Ashby to Drew Johnson on the final play of the third quarter. Adam Griguolo carried 16 times for 73 yards.
“I think they wore us down,” Hoover coach Brian Baum said. “They were physical up front and did a nice job. I’ve got nothing but respect for what Louisville was able to do tonight to us.”
Hoover had won three straight against Louisville and four of the last five. Louisville leads the all-time series 56-36-5 and Friday’s win has to go down as one of the more surprising wins over the last century considering Hoover’s preseason hype.
When asked if the loss can be good for the Vikings, Baum nodded and said, “It can. It can. We can learn from it. Sometimes it’s good to lose early, to remind you what that feeling is. It puts that feeling in the pit of your stomach so you never want to feel that way.
“I hate losing to Louisville, but we’ve got to make sure we keep our heads up and be about us next week.”