Cleveland Heights 48 - Hoover 28
NORTH CANTON — Cleveland Heights players grabbed the nearest ice bucket and went after the former NFL linebacker who is their head coach.
Their first dump on Mac Stephens after a 48-28 conquest of Hoover yielded just a partial hit. They found two more buckets and kept coming.
Quarterback Darreon Fair said the talk all week was that Hoover gave Heights a nice financial guarantee to make a rare trip to Stark County. Heights looked like a million dollars for most of the night.
“We can go 10-0,” Fair said. “That’s what I think.”
Hoover didn’t have the quarterback it thought was going to replace multi-year star Connor Ashby. Senior Cade Henne suffered an injury in practice. Head coach Brian Baum declined to say more than it was a leg injury that required surgery, and Henne is “out.”
Junior Tommy Smart started and was replaced early by sophomore Carson Dyrlund, who was on the field for all of Hoover’s points and projects as the starter for Game 2, at home against Columbus Beechcroft.
Stephens’ first six Heights teams sent 73 players into college football programs of assorted levels. Six-foot-5 receiver Jaylen Harris of Heights was one of Ohio State’s top recruits in 2017.
In 2019, Heights went 9-0 between an opening loss to Medina and a playoff defeat against Mentor.
He expected to compete well at Hoover and knew the Vikings were up against it with a sudden quarterback change.
“I was made aware an hour or so before we came down that the quarterback got hurt during the week,” Stephens said. “I know that played a part.
“At the same time, this is Year 7 for me, and this is the best week of practice we’ve ever had. We were ready to play.”
Stephens’ 2020 Tigers went 5-3, losing a playoff game against Stow 45-14 but scheduled a regular-season game a week later that produced a 42-0 rout of GlenOak. Hoover was just the second Stark County opponent Stephens has faced.
An eager crowd filled the home side under a blinding sun in 85-degree heat. Memorial Stadium had the feel of an old-school opener, of an awakening from the masked strangeness of 2020.
The number of youth football players parading across the field before kickoff seemed equal to some of the entire attendance from some games in the season of COVID-19.
Heights literally presented a big test, using a trio of good 300-pound blockers to open holes for swift backs.
Hoover’s strength is the defensive line, which has Drew Logan (6-4, 230) and Mike Shimek (6-2, 220) back from injury-plagued junior seasons and includes precocious sophomore Brady Sullivan (6-3, 240).
“I know they’re a lot better team that what was presented tonight,” Stephens said. “That defensive line is very good. We have a pretty dynamic quarterback. I think Hoover ultimately will win a lot of games. They just have to get through this.”
Baum wanted to contain the run and force the pass. Heights had other ideas. The Tigers got Hoover off balance early and found big running lanes.
A fumble caused by Logan barely slowed the Tigers. Owen Bisker, a 210-pound junior, ran free on a 24-yard touchdown. On an option, Fair cut inside, and was untouched on a 30-yard TD.
It was 21-0 before Fair finally had to pass, on third-and-long. He found a man wide open 25 yards downfield.
The Vikings have a deep tradition. They won five of their last six games last year.
They couldn’t wake up from Friday’s nightmare. Senior speedster Elijah Fowlkes scored on a long breakaway. The visitors led by four touchdowns before the sun was down.
It was 27-0 before Dyrlund hit a stride and whistled a 19-yard touchdown pass Zander Bugara.
Even then, the Vikings got hit with a personal foul, with 15 yards assessed on the kickoff. Good field position and another long pass led to another Heights TD. It was 34-7.
Baum said the overall viewpoint doesn’t change, even if the starting quarterback has.
“It’s the same with all our quarterbacks,” he said. “They need to rely on the run game and trust their reads.”
The Vikings approach September in a “running backs by committee” mindset, with an open mind as to letting a featured back emerge, as since-graduated Drew Robinson did last year.
According to Baum, Hoover will see how things develop with “a slasher,” junior Luke Roach, “a pounder,” junior Luke Griguolo, and big senior Lucas Tindell. Logan was spotted in as a big back Friday.
“Lucas has been nursing some injuries,” Baum said, “but he’s a 260-pounder who can run. We have some backs we’re excited about. They bring different things to the table.”
Heights permitted little excitement for a Hoover crowd that tried to stay in the game. A 46-yard Dyrlund-to-Bugara touchdown play improved the mood but still left Heights on top 34-14 and on its way to a win.
CLE. HEIGHTS 48, HOOVER 28
Heights – 14 – 20 – 0 – 14 — 48
Hoover – 0 – 7 – 7 – 14 — 28
CHt—Fair 1 run (Holland kick), 11:00
CHt—Bisker 24 run (Holland kick), 1:11
CHt—Fair 30 run (Holland kick), 11:17
CHt—Fowlkes 82 run (kick blocked), 3:32
Hoo—Bugara 19 pass from Dyrlund (Smart kick), :22
CHt—Fair 9 run (Holland kick), :04
Hoo—Bugara 46 pass from Dyrlund (Smart kick), 4:08
CHt—Fair 5 run (Holland kick), 10:00
Hoo—Roach 1 run (Smart kick), 4:48
CHt—Fair 52 run (Holland kick), 4:37
Hoo—Gross 38 pass from Dyrlund (Smart kick), 2:08
First downs 17 21
Rushes-Yds 35-358 43-226
Passing Yds 90 141
Comp-Att-Int 6-11-0 11-18-1
Punts-Avg. 3-38 6-33.2
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-Yds 5-25 2-15
Time of Poss. 21:16 26:33
PASSING—Heights, Fair 6-11-90-0. Hoover, Dyrlund 10-15-140-0, T.Smart 1-3-1-1.
RUSHING—Heights, Fair 18-178, Fowlkes 2-88, Bisker 7-57, White 3-28, Derrick 1-3, Gordon 1-3, Brooks 3-1. Hoover, L.Roach 25-116, Dyrlund 10-63, Tindell 4-25, Griguolo 3-16, Logan 1-6.
RECEIVING—Heights, Dillard 1-47, White 1-31, Wykoff 2-10, Fowlkes 1-5, Derrick 1-(minus 3). Hoover, Bugara 4-67, Gross 1-38, Logan 1-11, Shimek 1-11, Reed 1-8, Hackett 1-4, L.Roach 2-2.
Records: Heights 1-0, Hoover 0-1.
Source: Canton Repository