Hoover 48 - Uniontown Lake 29Division 2 - 2nd Round
NORTH CANTON Arm. Accuracy. Experience. Connor Ashby aimed all that ammo at the Lake Blue Streaks on Friday.
Ashby’s real edge, though, is below the ankles, if you ask Dan DeGeorge, whose Blue Streaks dropped a 48-29 Division II playoff decision to Ashby and the Hoover Vikings. The 6-foot-1 senior knows how to put his feet in his football.
“He’s as good as they get,” DeGeorge said. “He has a good arm and good accuracy. And he’s so athletic. What makes him so difficult is the way he uses his legs.”
Ashby’s 14-for-15, 248-yard, four-touchdown passing night set up a 194-yard rushing night for Drew Robinson and had plenty to do with moving to all the right places, in and out of the pocket.
“You have him hemmed in, and he pops out,” said Hoover head coach Brian Baum. “He would be a headache for a defensive coordinator.”
Now Ashby gets to pop over to Massillon for a Region 7 playoff battle.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I played against Massillon when I was in seventh grade, and now we get to play over there in the playoffs.”
Hoover is 1-4 all-time against Massillon, with the last meeting, a 17-10 Massillon win, coming in the 2009 playoffs. Friday’s game was Hoover’s first playoff victory in 12 years — the Vikings beat Massillon, Twinsburg and GlenOak before falling to St. Ignatius in the 2008 postseason.
Ashby will put the moves on at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium as best he can. He enjoyed running around when he was a seventh-grade quarterback and in youth football before that. He turned it into an art form, studying all the mobile quarterbacks — Johnny Manziel back in the day and now, with an eye on their varied styles of mobility, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Hoover stepped on the gas right out of the gate and led 29-7 at halftime.
Ashby’s feet factored into the first phase of the second half. He spread out Lake’s defense on a run-pass option, during which Brock Henne came open, caught the ball 15 yards downfield, and finished an 80-yard touchdown play.
The neighbors both arrived on a roll, Hoover with a three-game win streak, Lake with a 3-1 run in which the loss was to the Vikings, close.
The sun sank behind the covered home grandstand as the temperature crossed into the 40s. One imagined how rich the atmosphere would have been if the neighbors’ playoff battle had come off without COVID-19 crowd restrictions. Those allowed in were plenty noisy.
Lake has lived up to its “rock ’em” roots through most of the last two seasons. The Blue Streaks were a playoff-style team in 2019, as evidenced by a 4-0 start and a tough midseason loss (20-19) at McKinley. A week later against Hoover, the Streaks lost standout running back Dre Owens at the end of the first half when he got clobbered on an illegal (and penalized) hit while an interception was being returned.
The sequence basically ended the 2019 season for Owens, who has fought injuries this year and did not play Friday.
Lake came out trying to run but going three and out.
Hoover’s offense was on all night. Quick passes by Ashby and inside runs by Robinson led to a 20-yard strike to the 6-foot-5 Henne and a 4-yard TD run by Robinson.
Robinson went inside on the first play of Hoover’s second series, punishing defenders on a 23-yard run. Ashby scored on a short bootleg. It was 15-0.
Lake remained hopeful behind its own three-year starting quarterback, Jake Eckels. who passed for 248 yards.
“He’s a three-year starter and a captain and a really good player,” DeGeorge said. “He’s where I expected him to be.”
Soon after a muff on a punt reception set up Lake at the Hoover 14, Eckels dropped back, bought time, and waited for Carson Miller to come open in the end zone. It was 15-7.
Ashby wouldn’t slow down. His 25-yard keeper was followed by his scramble that allowed 6-4 Beau Burtscher to get open in the back of the end zone. Ashby fired just before reaching the line of scrimmage for a 12-yard TD.
Hoover’s fourth possession produced a fourth scoring drive on a roll-out TD pass from Ashby to Zach Yun. It was 29-7 with 5:05 left in the first half.
Baum said he is proud of the way his defensive line has come along this year. Last year’s Vikings allowed 29 or more points in all five of their losses. The current team gave up an average of 16 points during the three-game win streak it took into the playoffs.
Baum saw this game coming down to the fight in the trenches. The Vikings won that battle. And then there were the QB’s feet …