Grayson 35, Hoover (Ala.) 26
Grayson surrounds coach Christian Hunnicutt after the game.
Kenyon Jackson picked a pass off his shoetops and turned it into a fourth-quarter touchdown to help Class AAAAAAA No. 1 Grayson hold off Hoover, Ala., 35-26 at Grayson Community Stadium.
The Rams, the reigning state champions, had seen their two-touchdown lead whittled down to two points midway in the fourth period. With a little less than five minutes remaining in the game, Grayson had to either score a touchdown or punt and rely on its stressed defense.
The Rams chose the former.
Quarterback D.J. Irons spotted Kenyon Jackson over the middle and fired a pass that Jackson grabbed before it hit the ground and turned it into a 71-yard touchdown. The quick-strike gave the Rams a nine-point lead and essentially put the game away.
“I saw it and I knew when I snapped the ball it was going to be there,” Irons said. “He bailed me out.”
Jackson stretched all 6-foot-6 inches of his frame out to grab the ball, stay in stride and take it to the house.
“I saw how low it was and I was just trying to scoop it up and go,” Jackson said. “I just tried to reach down and grab it. After that the adrenaline just kicked in.”
The win was the first for coach Christian Hunnicutt, a longtime assistant who took over the program when Jeff Herron left after one season to take a job in South Carolina.
“I learned that our kids have a lot of chemistry and a lot of great intangibles,” Hunnicutt said. “They really showed a lot of poise and a lot of resolve. If we keep improving, we have a chance to do something in the tournament.”
Irons completed 14 of 21 passes for 211 yards and one touchdown. Ronald Thompkins rushed 17 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson caught three passes for 85 yards and one touchdown.
Hoover running back Larry McCammon rushed 15 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Auburn commitments Shedrick Jackson (five catches, 150 yards) and George Pickens (five catches, 83 yards) helped keep the Buccaneers in the game.
Grayson (1-0) is ranked as high as No. 6 in national polls. Hoover (0-1) won a state championship in Alabama last year and was looking to avenge last season’s 36-14 loss to Grayson.
Grayson looked like it was going to put Hoover away early, scoring on both of its first two possession to take a 14-0 lead.
The Rams struck quickly on their first possession. A 58-yard run by Thompkins got them to the 2 and two plays later quarterback D.J. Irons scored from the 1.
After the Grayson defense forced Hoover to go three-and-out, the Rams scored again on a nine-play drive. Irons had a crucial 20-yard run to convert a third down andThompkins scored on a 13-yard run.
Hoover responded to score on a 46-yard field goal by Barret Pickering. The big play was a 66-yard throw from Jalen Parker to Jackson, the nephew of Auburn great Bo Jackson.
Grayson gambled early in the second quarter when it opted to go for it on fourth down rather than try a chip shot field goal. Jonathan Halyard was stopped on fourth down at the 12.
Hoover drove to the Grayson 28 – a 19-yard pass to Jackson kept the drive alive – and settled for a 45-yard Pickering field goal to cut the Rams’ lead to 14-6 at the half.
Grayson scored on its first possession of the second half, Thompkins scoring on a 5-yard run, only to have Hoover answer with a touchdown, a 65-yard run by McCammon with 7:32 remaining.
Grayson went ahead 28-13 with 1:24 left in the third period. Hoover punter Will Reichard dropped the snap in the end zone and wasn’t able to pick it up. Owen Pappoe crashed in for Grayson to recover it for a touchdown.
Hoover scored with 10:01 left in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by McCamon and scored with 8:12 remaining on McCammon’s 3-yard run. The Bucs went for two in an attempt to tie, but the pass was picked off by Jaylen Haynes.