After Ashby threw for 2,252 yards and Griguolo ran for 1,233 yards last year, the pair want to take their respective games to another level this season.
NORTH CANTON His team includes the Federal League’s leading returning passer and rusher, along with a 60-catch receiver.
Says Hoover head coach Brian Baum, “If we can stay healthy, we can have a nice offense.”
“Nice” is a nice way to put it. The Vikings could be downright explosive.
Junior quarterback Connor Ashby and senior running back Adam Griguolo are back to lead a Hoover attack that lit up scoreboards last year and looks primed to do it again this season.
Expectations are high for the Vikings, who gained a piece of their first league title in 10 years last season when they shared it with McKinley. They just missed making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
A lot of those expectations revolve around Ashby and Griguolo, and they know it.
“They’re handling that well,” Baum said. “They want to get better. They’re working hard. And when you have high expectations, you hold others accountable as well.”
Ashby wants to throw for 3,000 yards this season. Griguolo wants to run for 2,000. Lofty stuff for sure.
But why not shoot for the stars when you have the type of experience and firepower the Vikings possess?
Senior Drew Johnson, he of the 60 receptions last year, leads a strong group of receivers that expects to get 6-foot-5 Trent Graham back at some point from an offseason knee injury.
Hoover must replace some big, talented guys on the offensive line, most significantly current Ohio University freshman Luke Vannest. But the Vikings seem very comfortable with the group around returning starters Ben Wyatt and Colby Shirey.
And then there is the quarterback-running back duo that accounted for 43 of Hoover’s 48 touchdowns last season.
The vibe between Ashby and Griguolo has continued in 2019.
“Once we got back on the field together, it was like instant chemistry,” Griguolo said. “We got back to it and picked up right where we left off.”
Ashby probably could not have played any better than he did as a sophomore. He threw for 2,252 yards and 21 touchdowns against only three interceptions. He completed 71.7 percent of his passes and added 429 yards and six touchdowns rushing.
“His arm has actually gotten stronger,” Baum said. “He’s got more zip on the ball. So we’re out there testing things and seeing what we can do with him. We’ll obviously scale back once we get to the season, but we’re pushing him and he’s doing a nice job responding.”
The 6-1, 180-pound Ashby, who has college offers from Toledo and Central Michigan, is in command of his team and the game in front of him.
“I’m used to the speed,” Ashby said. “Reading defenses is easier for sure. It was easy last year but it’s getting way easier this year.”
Griguolo ran for 1,233 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago. He added 22 receptions for 326 yards and two TDs.
He spent most of the offseason in the weight room and it shows.
“He’s gotten bigger. A lot bigger,” Ashby said. “When I was playing basketball and baseball, I didn’t see him much. I came back (to football) and I was like, ‘Whoa.’”
Griguolo estimates he’s up 20 pounds from last season. This year, he’s listed at 5-10, 200 pounds.
“He looks like a linebacker now,” said Baum, who plans to play Griguolo some at will linebacker this year. “He caught my eye.”
Hoover could offer plenty to see.
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