Hoover 38 - Licking Heights 7
Playoff payoff: North Canton Hoover football too much for Licking Heights in Region 7 win
October 28, 2022
Josh Weir, Canton Repository
NORTH CANTON — It could be said the Hoover Vikings did a better job holding on to Licking Heights ballcarriers than the actual football on Friday night.
The Vikings certainly never lost grip on this Division II, Region 7 first-round playoff game.
Hoover overcame its fumble problems with some suffocating defense and rolled to a 38-7 win at Memorial Stadium.
The sixth-seeded Vikings (8-3) advance to play at No. 3 seed Westerville South — a 34-7 winner against Worthington Kilbourne on Friday — in a regional quarterfinal next week.
Hoover’s defense has allowed seven points each of the last two weeks and looks to be playing its best football at the right time.
With several sophomores playing key roles on that defense, it stands to reason the Vikings would get better as the season progressed and the young guys gained experience.
Mentioning sophomores such as Drew Ziarko, Bryce Roach, AJ Dolph, Zach Braucher, Sam Hassen and Jake Rembielak, Hoover head coach Brian Baum observed, “They’re seasoned by this point in time.”
They looked it Friday.
Dolph picked off junior Michael Landry on Licking Heights’ first play from scrimmage. Roach had a pair of sacks in the first half. Ziarko recovered an errant Licking Heights shotgun snap that later led to a Cooper Westfall touchdown for Hoover in the second quarter. Hassen broke up multiple passes on the night, including one in the back of the end zone that probably saved a touchdown.
“It’s impressive, man,” Hoover senior linebacker Jack McKelley said. “Those guys are young and we’ve had to mentor them. The coaches have helped them. They’re doing their part and working as hard as they can. It’s paying off.”
Hoover fumbled five times Friday and lost three of them. The Vikings also had a punt bounce off the ground and touch their return man, with the Hornets recovering.
“I don’t know if we fumbled that many times all year. It was unbelievable,” Baum said. “They did a nice job forcing it out. We’ve just got to do a better job of holding onto it. And it wasn’t one guy. We spread it out with the fumbles.”
No. 11 seed Licking Heights (5-6) scored exactly zero points off all those Hoover miscues.
Landry, starting his second straight game at QB in place of injured senior Deuce Caldwell, finished 16-of-29 passing for 197 yards and a touchdown.
That one score — a 63-yard play to sophomore Jake Lopinto — breathed some life into Licking Heights early in the third quarter. But the Hornets couldn’t convert a fourth-and-1 at the Hoover 10 on their next possession and never seriously threatened.
“Our guys really took to the game plan well and we were aggressive tonight,” Baum said. “The D-line did a great job and the ‘backers were flowing around.”
Added McKelley, “We’ve just been dialed in at practice throughout the week and that’s leading to good performances come game time.”
Despite size and some good athletes, Licking Heights got off the bus after the two-hour bus ride from Pataskala and played like a team that ended its regular season with three straight losses.
The Hornets muffed a punt on their first chance to grab possession, which led to an 8-yard Luke Roach touchdown run three plays later for Hoover.
Their first offensive play then was intercepted by Dolph.
Of course, Hoover gave it right back with a fumble moments later, but it mattered little on this night with the Vikings defense basically allowing the Hornets nothing.
Licking Heights had one first down and a net of negative 19 yards at halftime (when a pair of blown snaps are factored in) as Hoover led 28-0. The Hornets finished with 2 rushing yards on 26 attempts for the game.
The older Roach, senior Luke, has been banged up much of the season and missed last week’s game at Jackson. He looked fresh Friday, running for a season-high 158 yards and a TD on 23 carries.
“We had to give him a week off,” Baum said. “It made us nervous last week, but it paid off this week.”
Junior QB Carson Dyrlund ran for two touchdowns and 53 yards on 10 carries while completing 10 of 17 passes for 109 yards and no interceptions.
Senior Luke Griguolo, who makes up the veteran foundation of Hoover’s defense at linebacker along with McKelley, added a 2-yard TD run in the second quarter as a short-yardage back.
Braucher, a two-way starter who has become Dyrlund’s favorite target, caught four passes for 80 yards. His leaping 30-yard reception late in the first quarter led to a Dyrlund TD run.
Hoover senior kicker Jeremy Kish was 5-for-5 on PATs and made a 31-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Licking Heights – 0 – 0 – 7 – 0 — 7
Hoover – 14 – 14 – 3 – 7 — 38
NCH—L.Roach 8 run (Kish kick)
NCH—Dyrlund 3 run (Kish kick)
NCH—Westfall 6 run (Kish kick)
NCH—Griguolo 2 run (Kish kick)
LH—J.Lopinto 63 pass from Landry (Johnson kick)
NCH—FG Kish 31
NCH—Dyrlund 4 run (Kish kick)
First downs 7-21
Passing Yards 197-109
Penalties-Yards 8-55, 3-30
Total yards 199-373
Records 5-6, 8-3
Source: Canton Repository