"That team kicked our butts," said Griffins coach Ricky Powers after the Hoover Vikings blew out a Buchtel team with high expectations.

NORTH CANTON  Ten months later, it's as if the scoreboard never stopped spinning.

Having put up 40 points a game in the second half of 2018, the Hoover Vikings hung a 38-7 loss on Akron Buchtel in a 2019 season opener.

"I'll tell ya what, man ... that team kicked our butts," Buchtel head coach Ricky Powers said. "Their quarterback is amazing. Their running back is amazing. And their offensive line came off the ball."

A mostly packed home side in Memorial Stadium reflected a hope the Vikings can grade out even better than their appealing 7-3 selves of last year.

Opening Friday was a P-plus, promising and then some.

Quarterback Connor Ashby, who went 12-of-16 for 169 yards and three touchdowns, liked what his team's performance said.

"I can tell we have a lot of heart," he said. "Just like last year, everyone cares. Everyone on this team cares, plus some."

The Vikings made a quick defensive stand, popped in a quick touchdown, and kept the ship ripping through the night.

"The players handled themselves very well," fifth-year head coach Brian Baum said.

Senior Adam Griguolo racked up 235 yards from scrimmage, 174 on the ground, 61 as a receiver.

Hoover's defense had a shutout until the closing seconds.

"Last year, we were 7-3, and we could have done some things to be 10-0," Griguolo said. "We have a chip on our shoulder."

Powers, unstoppable when he ran the Griffins to state championships in 1987 and 1988, hoped his team would impose its will on the first possession of 2019.

Even though Hoover's Elliot Tornow chased down Martavien Johnson for a four-yard loss on Buchtel's first play, Powers soon saw fit to go for it on fourth-and-3 from his own 42.

It was a dare-you-to-stop-us dive by 220-pound Kyree Young, up the gut behind the Griffins' large line. A swarm of five Vikings delivered the stop.

"Aw, man, I thought we could make it," Powers said. "I'd do it again."

"We took advantage of an opportunity to get the momentum right away," Baum said.

Hoover sent out one of the region's top returning passers, Ashby, and threw a curveball. An all-running series spiced by a 20-yard Ashby run was capped by Griguolo's 1-yard TD run.

"It was a good test," Griguolo said. "They hit us as hard as they could every play."

Later in the first quarter, after a 66-yard punt seemed to bail the Griffins out of a pinch, Ashby passed to Zachary Yun for 33 yards, then got 25 yards from Griguolo on a screen. Ashby's short TD run and conversion pass to Grant Fuciu made it 14-0.

Buchtel drove midway through the second quarter when Tornow, a key man in Hoover's pursuit against Buchtel's outside speed, bounced off Johnson while trying for another tackle for loss. Tornow limped off the field, but on the next play, Bradley Smith ended the threat with an interception of junior quarterback Robert Young-Jones.

Ashby zipped a spiral to 6-foot-5 Brock Henne on third-and-7 to get Hoover moving again. On a fourth-and-3 from the Buchtel 43, it was the Vikings' turn to go for it. Ashby rolled out and found Drew Johnson for a 10-yard gain.

Offensive coordinator Tim Goodman opened up the arsenal. A first-down bomb was incomplete, but a swing pass to Griguolo advanced the Vikings to the 15.

On third-and-8, the pivotal play of the first half, Ashby dropped back, looked right, and hit Johnson at the 10 in rhythm. Johnson had room to run and dive and reach the ball across the pylon. Touchdown.

Yanni Volas' kick made it 21-0 with 1:48 left in the half.

Buchtel's defense made the Vikings work, limiting Griguolo to 42 first-half yards on 13 carries, but Ashby spread the ball around and kept the Griffins off balance.

Hoover's defense allowed only 82 yards in the first half, holding the highly touted Young to 11 yards on six carries.

Hoover opened the second half with two Griguolo carries for 28 yards. That slowed the pass rush and led to a 13-yard Ashby-to-Johnson touchdown.

Zachary Evans' interception returned the ball to Hoover near midfield. Ashby's 22-yard strike to Fuciu, running toward the right corner of the end zone, created a 34-0 lead and a running clock with 4:00 left in the third quarter.

"I saw a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of hustle," Baum said, "and the heart to be relentless."

 

Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or steve.doerschuk

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP