High School Football

Huskies take control in second half, move past Nitro 42-7 for first win

ELKVIEW, W.Va. — It had been a long time coming for Herbert Hoover, which played its first meaningful football game at its new state of the art facility Friday against Class AA No. 8 Nitro.

Although the Huskies were reeling from losses in each of their first two games, it’s not a position they’re unfamiliar with. The lack of panic was on display for much of the matchup, particularly during a dominant second half that enabled Herbert Hoover to hand the Wildcats their first loss, 42-7.

“We probably needed this. We probably needed another boost,” Huskies’ head coach Joey Fields said. “We talk about Monday through Thursday takes care of Friday and this was our best week of practice, because the kids wanted to win. They understood their backs were against the wall. We’ve been in this position before.”

A year ago, Hoover (1-2) began the season suffering losses to Scott and Winfield, before it notched a Week 3 win over Nitro. That was the start of the Huskies’ 10-game win streak, which was snapped in a loss to Independence in the Class AA title game. 

The first three weeks of this season have played out the same for the Huskies, who still have their sights set on a postseason run.

“This isn’t an ideal plan to be 0-2 and go to a state championship every year,” Fields said, “but we have a lot of guys in this locker room that have been in this position before and know how to work hard and handle it.”

Hoover recently opened its new school and athletics facilities following the devastating 2016 floods that heavily damaged the previous building.

The Huskies were eager to play before a frenzied environment, and following an exchange of punts by the Cardinal Conference rivals, Hoover struck first on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Dane Hatfield to Avery Pannell. The game’s first scoring play came on second-and-36 after a snap issue had led to a loss of 16 yards. 

“It was kind of planned on Tuesday,” Fields said. “We liked the look.”

The first of six point-point after kicks from Voss Duernberger gave Hoover a 7-0 lead with 1:13 to play in the first quarter.

Nitro (2-1) answered back with a 10 play touchdown drive finished off by Eli Littlejohn’s 2-yard touchdown run. Littlejohn carried eight times for 44 yards on the Wildcats’ lone touchdown drive of the contest, which allowed them to pull even 9:03 before halftime.

Hoover responded with a 14 play touchdown drive that consisted of all runs and was capped by Hatfield’s 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak. Blake Fisher’s 18-yard run was the longest play of a drive that took off nearly 8 minutes of the second-quarter clock.

The Huskies carried their 14-7 lead into halftime, before starting the second half with a pivotal defensive stop as Ty Mullins sacked Nitro quarterback Josh Moody for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-5 from the Huskies’ 30-yard line.

Hoover continued to work its ground game and got a 7-yard TD run from Hatfield with 3:10 left in the third quarter for the first two-score lead of the night.

“He was very upset with how he played the first two weeks and disappointed,” Fields said of Hatfield. “He wanted to play better and I knew he would. He’s a great teammate and a great kid and deserves everything he gets.”

Confusion on the ensuing kickoff led to a Huskies’ recovery as Nitro’s Zaevyon Dickerson never picked up a loose football that sat just inside the Wildcats’ 10-yard line.

Two plays later, Hatfield had his third of four rushing touchdowns from 3 yards out, and the Huskies held a 28-7 lead with 2:29 left in the third quarter.

“They didn’t know that the ball had to be in the end zone to be dead,” Nitro coach James “Boom” McKinney said. “He said he didn’t see it. That’s on me.”

Nitro got to the Huskies’ 1-yard line on its next series, but Amellio Miller was stopped for a loss of 3 yards, and Moody’s third-and-goal pass from the 4 fell incomplete. On fourth-and-goal, Moody was dropped for a 7-yard loss on the second play of the fourth quarter, effectively ending any thought of a Wildcats’ rally.

“We had a couple mishaps and we just didn’t execute,” McKinney said. “It was a bad night and that’s on me as a head coach.”

Hatfield added a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:47 remaining after he’d connected with Jaylen Symns for a gain of 38. Hatfield’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Symns concluded the scoring.

While Hatfield rushed for 107 yards and four TDs on 24 carries, Fisher was the game’s top rusher with 131 yards on 20 attempts.

“He’s a sophomore and right now he’s doing it all for us,” Fields said. “He’s the best football player on our team right now.”

The Huskies’ defense was equally, if not more impressive, in keeping in check a Nitro offense that had totaled 140 points over its first two games.

“We told them we were going to run into adversity some time and this is it,” McKinney said. “We just go back to work Monday.”

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