Canton McKinley 40 - Hoover 28
CANTON No matter how wildly Friday night ebbed and flowed, one simple truth remained at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
The McKinley Bulldogs had Elijah Wesley, and he wasn’t going to let them lose.
The senior quarterback accounted for 385 yards of offense and four touchdowns as McKinley held on for a 40-28 Federal League win against Hoover with a COVID-limited crowd of 1,453 fans watching.
“I think he wanted to make a statement tonight about who the best player in the area is, and I think he made a very profound one,” McKinley head coach Marcus Wattley said. “The kid played great tonight. I’m proud of him.”
The game featured two of the best QBs in Northeast Ohio with Wesley and Hoover’s Connor Ashby.
Ashby was good on this night.
Wesley was great.
The Toledo recruit ran for 168 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. With quick feet and breakaway speed, Wesley had the stadium holding its collective breath every time he tucked the ball up.
He also threw for 217 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 11-of-18 passing. He showed particular zip when he fit a slant pass into a tight window for a 12-yard TD pass to senior Xavier Black midway through the third quarter.
“No. 7 (Wesley) was tough,” Hoover head coach Brian Baum said, almost shaking his head. “He was probably the difference maker tonight.”
When a 33-14 McKinley lead became 33-28 in the matter of about three minutes early in the fourth quarter, Wesley put out the fire.
He ran for 14 yards on a third-and-5 play to move the chains. Three plays later, he found senior Latrell Snow on a fade route for a 17-yard touchdown with 5:21 left, and Hoover never got back within one score.
“The whole time I was mad because we should’ve been blowing them out. It shouldn’t have been tight,” Wesley said. “I got it together. My team made sure I got it together.”
Asked about his confidence no matter the situation with Wesley behind center, Black laughed and said, “He already knows the deal.”
Black, also a Toledo recruit, caught four passes for 105 yards and two TDs.
It was quite the mixed bag from McKinley (2-0, 2-0) on this night. The Bulldogs allowed Hoover to recover two kicks (a pooch to start the game and a fourth-quarter onside). They threw a tipped interception on the goal line and lost one fumble. They were penalized eight times.
Yet, they didn’t punt until late in the fourth quarter. They racked up 543 yards of offense while at least containing Ashby and a potent Hoover offense on the other side of the ball, registering McKinley’s 12th straight win against Hoover.
“(Hoover) did a lot of good things,” Wattley said. “Their quarterback made some plays, and we didn’t make some plays. I never felt like the game was in doubt, but we could’ve played better tonight, and that’s disappointing. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Ashby, given all kinds of time most of the evening with McKinley rarely blitzing, threw for 216 yards, two TDs and one pick on 18-of-36 passing. The Kent State baseball recruit, who had several college football offers as well, added 76 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Both of his passing TDs went to senior Zach Yun, who finished with four receptions for 62 yards.
Senior Drew Robinson ran extremely hard for Hoover (1-1, 1-1), totaling 118 yards on 24 carries and another 84 yards on nine receptions.
His second-effort 3-yard TD run with 8:09 left cut the Vikings deficit to 33-28. This came after Ashby took Hoover down the field in a flash, ending in a 17-yard TD pass to Yun, with Hoover then recovering an onside kick.
“We could’ve laid an egg there, but instead the kids decided they wanted to fight,” Baum said.
Senior running back Brandon Foster totaled 117 yards on 14 carries for a McKinley offense that is brimming with impact players. Snow caught five passes for 78 yards.
“(Those) are my boys,” Wesley said, “and when we’re all on the same page, it’s going to be a show.”