MONTGOMERY — The Central Red Devils’ season opener on Friday looked like the start of another dream season. While everything is still on the table, the game turned into a nightmare late.
Central could not hold on in the AHSAA Kickoff Classic against Hoover, as a late turnover and several stalled-out offensive drives opened the door for the Buccaneers to take a 17-14 victory.
The loss for the Red Devils snaps a 14-game winning streak and leaves the team 0-3 all-time against Hoover.
The Red Devils (0-1) appeared ready to finish off the showdown between Class 7A’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter, Central mounted a strong drive featuring big plays from quarterbacks Trevion Miles and Tucker Melton to get the team down the field.
The drive promptly died within the Hoover 5-yard line when a fumble was recovered by the Buccaneers, leaving it on the Red Devils’ defense to stand tall.
Central’s defense held Hoover (1-0) back for most of the night, but Buccaneers quarterback Robby Ashford would not be denied on the game’s last drive. The Ole Miss commit was masterful with the game up for grabs, completing two passes for 20 and 28 yards on the final drive and breaking off a 16-yard run to get Hoover in field goal range.
Hoover kicker Constantine Hontzas endured two timeouts by Central, stepped in and drilled the 30-yard field goal to send the defending Class 7A state champions home reeling.
The painful close to the contest for Central was a sharp contrast to how it started for the Red Devils.
After several stalled drives from both sides, the Red Devils came through with a seven-play, 81-yard drive featuring a 62-yard run by Joseph McKay.
The possession ended with seven points when quarterback Tucker Melton hit Peter Jakes on a 7-yard touchdown pass, putting Central ahead 7-0 with 3:19 to go in the first quarter.
McKay was the bell cow for the Red Devils, ending the night with 27 carries for 160 yards.
The Buccaneers tried several deep shots through the air that didn’t pan out through the first half. Central, meanwhile, made the most of the passes it attempted, which included Melton’s 13-yard bullet across the middle to E.J. Williams to put the Red Devils up 14-0 almost seven minutes before halftime.
Hoover was quiet through the first half, but the Buccaneers roared back to life in the second.
Hoover got fancy for its first seven points, running a reverse that ended with receiver R.J. Hamilton hitting quarterback Robby Ashford for an eight yard touchdown. After a Central three-and-out and a long punt return, the Buccaneers evened the score 14-14 when Ashford found Cooper Tullo in the back of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown.
Tullo’s catch left the game tied with 3:37 left in the third.
Hoover 17, Central 14
C — 7 7 0 0 -14
H — 0 0 14 3 - 17
C - Tucker Melton 7-yard pass to Peter Jakes (XP good), 3:19
C - Melton 13-yard pass to E.J. Williams (XP good), 6:53
H - RJ Hamilton 8-yard pass to Robby Ashford (XP good), 5:35
H - Ashford 17-yard pass to Cooper Tullo (XP good), 3:37
H - Constantine Hontzas 30-yard field goal, 0:00