Hoover 27 - Jackson 14
October 20, 2023
Cliff Hickman, Canton Repository
Zach Braucher catches 2 TDs to lead Hoover High football to 4th straight win over Jackson
NORTH CANTON — The ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity as Hoover wide receiver Zach Braucher sprinted toward the end zone. With three defenders on Braucher, it looked like the ball would surely be knocked away harmlessly as the clock expired on the first half Friday.
Appearances can be deceiving. Braucher got into position, reached high into the air and somehow plucked the ball away from the defenders and fell to the ground with it for a 47-yard Viking touchdown. It was emblematic of the type of night the Vikings had in a 27-14 victory over rival Jackson.
“He’s just a dude,” Hoover head coach Brian Baum said. “What more can you say? What a play that was. As soon as he came down with that, I just thought ‘we’re going to win.'”
Those thoughts turned out to be prophetic. The win was the fourth in a row for Hoover over Jackson in The Battle for the Rail trophy. The win also guaranteed the Vikings a playoff spot in Division II, Region 7.
“That was a big momentum swing for us,” Braucher said. “I really wanted to find a way to come down with that one to give us a big advantage going into halftime and fortunately I was able to do it.”
It was part of a huge night for Braucher. Braucher, who had been moved to quarterback the last game and a half due to a lower leg injury to starting QB Carson Dyrlund, was back at his natural position and didn’t miss a step. Braucher caught seven passes for 84 yards with two touchdowns. Braucher also came down with two interceptions on defense.
“It means everything to have this kind of performance against Jackson,” Braucher said. “The community gives us so much support. I was happy to go out and deliver for them.”
It was a banner night for the Hoover defense as a whole. The Vikings forced five total turnovers. That included four interceptions and a fumble recovery. Sophomore defensive back Aiden Kish helped seal the win in the fourth quarter. Jackson fumbled on a play at the Hoover 1-yard line and Kish scooped it up and returned it to the 14 to kill a drive. He pulled down an interception on the next drive in Viking territory to snuff out another promising Polar Bear drive.
“I’m pumped that I was able to help out in a win tonight,” Kish said. “Defeating Jackson is very exciting. It means a lot and we took this game personally. We all came together. We wanted this one badly.”
It showed. Hoover got a gutsy showing from Dyrlund in his return to the lineup. Dyrlund was not as mobile or as active in the run game as he usually is, but had a solid night throwing the football. Dyrlund was 18-of-28 passing for 169 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“He had a good showing,” Baum said. “He made good decisions. You could tell he wasn’t quite 100% out there but the guys around him stepped up and helped out and made plays for him. He showed a lot of guts playing tonight.”
Nearly lost in all of the spectacle was Hoover’s Mason Ashby breaking the career receptions record for Hoover. Ashby caught eight passes for 51 yards. He now has 152 catches in his career. The previous Hoover record was 149.
“He’s played a lot of meaningful snaps for us over the years,” Baum said. “Him doing that in a rivalry game like this tonight is obviously very special.”
Rounding out the scoring for Hoover was a 73-yard interception return for a TD by Isaiah Barker in the first quarter. Paul Koskovich also kicked a 24-yard field goal and a 35-yard field goal for the Vikings.
It was a tough night for Jackson. The Polar Bears found themselves in a 24-7 halftime hole after allowing Braucher to catch two TDs in the final 19 seconds of the half. Sandwiched in between that was the Jackson special teams unit failing to cover a squib kick that the Vikings recovered, setting set up the memorable TD catch by Braucher before the half.
“At the end of the day we lost to a good team that is well coached,” Jackson head coach Jay Rohr said. “I preached coming into this game that we needed to win at least two of the three phases of the game to come out with a win. When you commit five turnovers and don’t cover a kick, you aren’t doing that. You aren’t setting yourself up for success and you aren’t winning.”
Also concerning was the loss of starting sophomore quarterback Lucas Ecerment with a lower leg injury. Ecerment was sandwiched by two defenders at the Hoover 1-yard line while trying to score on a 14-yard run in the fourth quarter. Ecerment was down for several minutes on the field and did not return. He was seen on crutches on the sideline.
Ecerment threw two TD passes for Jackson prior to exiting. He was 13-of-25 passing for 193 yards with two interceptions.
“Unfortunately we don’t know how serious it is,” Rohr said. “We’re going to evaluate it tomorrow and get some tests done. It doesn’t look good, though. It’s tough. It’s unfortunate. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and we are going to rally around him. Noah Colando as well.”
Colando is one of Jackson’s top receivers. He was knocked out of the game and did not return as well. His status going forward also remains uncertain. Jackson has clinched a playoff spot in Division I, Region 1 but may be faced with Ecerment and Colando being unavailable for the playoffs next week.
HOOVER 27, JACKSON 14
Jackson – 0 – 7 – 7 – 0 — 14
Hoover – 10 – 14 – 3 – 0 — 27
H—FG Koskovich 24
H—Barker 71 interception return (Koskovich kick)
J—Benson 21 pass from Ecrement (Mizeur kick)
H—Braucher 14 pass from Dyrlund (Koskovich kick)
H—Braucher 47 pass from Dyrlund (Koskovich kick)
J—Fuline 24 pass from Ecrement (Mizeur kick)
H—FG Koskovich 37
J — H
First Downs — 15 — 16
Rushes-Yards — 22-129 — 35-48
Comp-Att-Int — 14-29-4 — 20-31-0
Passing Yards — 232 — 214
Fumbles-Lost — 2-2 — 0-0
Penalties-Yards — 2-19 — 4-55
Total Yards — 361 — 262
Records — 5-5, 2-4 — 5-5, 2-4
Source: Canton Repository