View gallery here
Hoover bests Central in its opener, 45-35
The Patrick Nix Era at Central High began with a bang and ended with a groan as his No. 2 ranked Red Devils jumped to an early lead on Hoover High and then watched that lead erased in a 45-35 loss to the No. 4 ranked Buccaneers. It was the fourth loss in four games to Hoover since the two first played in the 1978 playoffs.
It was the second year in a row that Hoover rallied to beat Central. The two teams opened the 2019 season in the AHSAA’s Champions Challenge at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl where Hoover won 20-17 on a last-second field goal. Previous to that game, Central lost to Hoover 23-7 in 2016 and 21-14 when Hoover was known as Berry High. The 1978 game was played at Berry while the 2016 and 2019 games were on a neutral site at Cramton Bowl. Friday’s loss was the first time the two had met in Phenix City in Garrett-Harrison Stadium.
“Overall, I think our offense played really well. It is hard for a defense to find out you have a game in three days and you have to face a lot of formations you haven’t seen or prepared for,” Nix said of his team’s play against Hoover. “We had some things happen that put our defense in some difficult situations. We had a fumble, an interception and a bad snap on a fourth down that put the defense in bad situations.”
Central, 0-1, will try to get on the positive side of the win/loss column this week against Eufaula High, a 50-7 winner against Carroll-Ozark High last week. The kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET tomorrow night in Eufaula. The last time the two schools met was in 2007 when the Red Devils won 28-14. Eufaula leads the overall series between the two schools 16-13-3. Central’s school record for most points in a game came in 1970 when the Red Devils defeated Eufaula 75-28.
“We have looked at Eufaula and are preparing for this week’s game. It is good to have a normal week of preparation this week. It’s good to get into a flow,” Nix said in a Monday interview.
Central jumped to a quick 14-0 lead over the Buccaneers with its first two offensive possessions of the season. Junior quarterback Caleb Nix drove the Red Devil offense 80 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Meeks with 9:57 left in the first quarter. Noah Pell kicked the extra point.
The initial drive of the season was keyed by a pair of runs and a pair of passes by Nix. Nix had runs of 24 and 13 yards. The second run – of 13 yards – came on a third down and extended the Central scoring march. He had passes of 15 and 24 yards – the second one for his team’s first points.
Nix guided Central on a 75-yard, seven-play drive to up his team’s lead to 14-0. Nix scored a touchdown on a 19-yard run. The key to the drive was a 34-yard pass between Nix and Meeks.
Hoover came back with a pair of touchdown passes – 11 and 21– to tie the game at 14-14.
In the second quarter, Patrick Nix turned to Trey Miles to lead the offense. The senior, who shared duties behind center with Tucker Melton last season, drove Central to a touchdown on his first possession. Miles connected with Meeks on a 21-yard scoring pass with 9:43 left in the first half. He was 4-of-4 passing for 56 yards along the six-play, 70-yard drive to the end zone to give Central a 21-14 lead.
Miles’ second possession behind center lasted nine plays and covered 57 yards, but ended at the Hoover 11-yard line with an incomplete pass. Miles passed for 52 of the 57 yards of the drive.
In between those drives by Miles, Hoover tied the game a second time – at 21-21 – with a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Nix returned to the game for the next Central possession and led the Red Devils to their fourth touchdown of the night. He drove the offense 50 yards in five plays. He connected with Meeks on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 1:02 left in the half to make the score 28-21.
At the half, Nix was 7-of-12 for 128 yards with two touchdown passes. Miles was 8-of-10 passing for 108 yards with a touchdown. Nix also ran for 62 yards on four carries with a touchdown.
Hoover tied the game at 28-28 with its first possession of the second half. The Buccaneers went 61 yards in five plays to score on a 5-yard run. The big play of the drive came on the drive’s second play – a 41-yard pass that put Hoover at the Central 18.
A low snap that Nix bobbled on fourth down and inches to go at the Central 23 lost eight yards and gave Hoover its first gift of the night. The Buccaneers took over at the 15 and took four plays to score and gave them their first lead of the night, 35-28, with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
Central took over at its 35 to begin its ensuing possession and Nix drove the Red Devils the distance in eight plays – or so it seemed. Nix connected with Jackson on a 27-yard touchdown pass for an apparent touchdown, but the score was erased by a taunting call that left Central facing fourth down and two yards to go from the 19. Central got the first down, but on the next play Nix’s pass to the end zone was picked off by a Hoover defender to end the drive.
Hoover drove to the Central 7-yard line from its own 22 in four plays, but Central’s defense stiffened and stopped the Buccaneers on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Central took over at the 2-yard line, and Miles guided the team from the end zone to their 37 be-fore Zion Morris ran for a 2-yard gain to the 39. The ball came loose after Morris ap-peared down and Hoover recovered and returned it to the Red Devils’ 20. Central kept Hoover out of the end zone on the ensuing drive, but did not prevent the Buccaneers from scoring on a 22-yard field to add to its lead. Hoover led 38-28 with a little over five minutes left in the game.
Hoover upped its lead to 45-28 with a 25-yard scoring run with 2:59 left to play.
Central scored once more before the game ended on a 5-yard pass from Nix to Marquevious Terry with 1:08 left on the game clock to make the final score 45-35.
Central out-gained Hoover 479 to 421 total yards. Nix was 13 of 30 passing for 212 yards with three TDs. He also ran for 60 yards on five carries. Miles was 11 of 17 for 124 yards with a TD. McKay ran for 73 yards on 12 attempts to lead all runners in the game. Meeks caught 12 passes for 228 yards with three touchdowns.