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 Hoover 17, Central-Phenix City 14 Final | Friday - August 23, 2019 | Champions Challege 

QB Robby Ashford (Hoover) turning into a wide receiver as he scores the first touchdown for the Bucs fom a pass from freshman R.J. Hamilton

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- A 30-yard field goal by Constantine Hontzas when time expired game the #3 Hoover Bucs a 17-14 win over #1 Central-Phenix City at the Cramton Bowl on Friday night. Hoover outscored Central 17-0 in the second half to get the big 7A win.

With 4:22 left in the game, Central fumbled at the Bucs 3-yard line and could have put the game away for the Red Devils but QB Robby Ashford drove his team from their own 3-yard line to the Red Devils 17-yard line with :03 left in the game.

To start the game winning drive, Ashford hit Malik Thomas on a 27-yard pass to get the Bucs out of the whole. On the next play, Dylan Betts-Pauley goes for 10-yards to the Bucs 40. Three plays later, Ashford scrambles and finds Jamari Buye on the Red Devils 38-yard line. On the next play, Betts-Pauly gets 7-yards, then goes for four more yards for a first down at the Red Devils 27-yard line. Then Ashford scrambles to the Red Devils 16-yard line and Anthony Hayes goes to the 13-yard line to set up the winning field goal for the Bucs. "I was just focused on kicking the ball right down the middle," said the Bucs kicker Hontzas. "I has focused on making the kick."

The game was delayed two hours due to lightning in the area but that didn't slow down Central as they led 14-0 at the half but couldn't put anything together in the second half. "We made two many mistakes tonight," said Red Devils head coach Jamey DuBose. "We had a big holding call in the end zone that cost us a score, we didn't get enough pass rush and Robby made some plays with his legs and we knew that he could do that. I though both offenses and defenses were even but they got us in special teams. Two good football teams, one had to win in the end, but we will be back."

Central opened the scoring in the game with 3:19 left in the first quarter, Tucker Melton fould Peter Jakes in the middle of the end zone for a Red Devils touchdown. Joseph McKay had a 62-yard run the set up the Red Devils first touchdown. McKay had 177 yards on 27 carries on the night.

With 6:53 left in the half, Melton hit E.J. Williams on a 13-yard slant play and Central-Phenix City took a 14-0 lead into halftime. Hoover had chances to score in the first half, but a few drops and a fumble by the inexperienced receivers played a part why the Bucs didn't score in the first half. "They are young," said Bucs head coach Josh Niblett. "We don't have one receiver back with a varsity catch. We had some drops that we'd like to have back, that Robby made good throws on them, but that's part of it."

It was all Hoover in the second half and the Bucs receivers made the adjustments. Central had a turnover midway in the third quarter and the Bucs turned it into a score. Hayes took a little swing pass from Ashford, broke a couple of tackles and put the Bucs offense deep into Red Devils territory. With 5:35 left in the third quarter, freshman receiver R.J. Hamilton took a pitch and threw a touchdown pass to Ashford in the corner of the end zone for the Bucs get their first score of the game. With the TD, Central still led 14-7.

After a Red Devils three and out, Hamilton returned a Central punt 50-yards deep into Red Devels territory. With 3:37 left in the third quarter, Ashord found Cooper Tullo on a 13-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. Central went to replay but the play stood and so did the Bucs touchdown to tie the score at 14. "I ran the corner post and saw Robby go out so I had to adjust the route," said the Bucs WR Tullo. "I took a peak at my feet to see if I was still in bounds and I just wanted to stay balanced when the ball came my way. Robby creates great plays and that is why he is so special on our team."

The Bucs defense turned in a huge performance in the second half keeping Central out of the end zone. "This is a big win for us and a big win for our program," added Niblett. "I don't think many people gave us a chance."

Next week, Hoover travels to play in the Freedom Bowl at Milton High School to face Cocoa, Florida. Central travels to Atlanta, Georgia to face Cedar Grove, Georgia.

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