by Kyle Parmley
LOGANVILLE, Ga. – The Bucs changed the momentum, but saw opportunity slip through its grasp.
Hoover High School’s Larry McCammon scored his third touchdown of the game with 7:07 to play to pull the Bucs within two points, but Grayson (Georgia) stopped the conversion try and eventually held on to win 35-26 in the Bucs’ season opener on Friday night at Grayson Community Stadium.
Hoover (0-1) trailed from nearly the word “go,” but McCammon’s score set up a two-point conversion attempt that could have tied the game. Hoover quarterback Jalen Parker rolled out to his left and threw a pass towards the near pylon, but the pass was broken up, leaving Grayson with a 28-26 edge.
“We just didn’t play very well early,” said Hoover head coach Josh Niblett. “First of all, to God be the glory. We had an opportunity to tie the game, we kind of changed the momentum a little bit. When you do that against good teams, you’ve got to take advantage of that, and we didn’t.”
Grayson took a 7-0 lead two minutes into the contest after a quick-strike scoring drive to kick off the game. After an initial Hoover three-and-out, the Rams struck again, using a 12-yard run from Ronald Thompkins to take a 14-0 edge.
The golden leg of Barret Pickering kept the Bucs in the game in the first half, with field goals of 46 and 45 yards to cut the deficit to 14-6 at the half.
“We didn’t start off fast enough,” Niblett said. “But I thought our kids showed some resilience. There’s no doubt we played hard, but we made some mistakes, had some costly penalties on some drives that cost us a little bit.”
Grayson extended the lead once again shortly after the halftime break, as Thompkins scored his second touchdown of the night to give the Rams a 21-6 lead early in the third quarter.
Hoover responded with a nice nine-play drive, punctuated by McCammon’s 65-yard score to make it 21-13. The junior back picked up 103 yards on 13 carries.
Grayson snatched the momentum completely away from Hoover late in the third quarter, as the Bucs made a critical special teams mistake. Already pinned back deep in their own territory, the Bucs mishandled the snap on a punt attempt, and Grayson’s Owen Pappoe recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and a 28-13 Grayson lead.
McCammon scored his second and third touchdowns on back-to-back drives to begin the fourth quarter, the latter pulling the Bucs two points shy of a tie game, 28-26.
The Rams landed the decisive blow with 3:54 to play, as D.J. Irons’ pass was picked nearly clean off the turf by receiver Kenyon Jackson, who gathered the pass, regained his footing and took it 71 yards for the score.
Hoover’s defense broke in many new starters and rotation players, after several graduated from last fall’s state championship defense. But with its backs against the wall and needing a stop, the Bucs made three consecutive stops to bridge the third and fourth quarters.
“It’s about getting in the game and putting guys in the fire a little bit,” Niblett said. “Because we’ve got to gain some experience on defense.”
The receiving tandem of Shedrick Jackson and George Pickens had a big night, with Jackson hauling in five passes for 150 yards and Pickens grabbing six for 87 yards.
Parker finished 16-of-33 through the air for 287 yards, and played pretty well after the offense’s slow start. He put several deep throws on the money to Jackson and Pickens.
“We got a quarterback who played his tail off tonight,” Niblett said of Parker, who now takes the reins from Garrett Farquhar. “Took some shots, got back up. He’s a tough kid, and we’re going to be able to go a long way with him.”
Hoover will play its home opener next week against Meridian (Mississippi), as the Bucs open the season with its second straight out-of-state contest.