The No. 4-seeded Warriors seemingly got better as the day progressed, and they put themselves in position to knock off Hoover (Ala.) in back-to-back games to win the championship.
Hoover, which went 13-2 last fall and made its state finals, showed North Cobb why it was perfect throughout the tournament. The Bucs never yielded a serious mistake for North Cobb to pounce on, and they prevailed with a 31-12 win in the championship.
The only thing Hoover did wrong was miss an extra point. The Bucs found the end zone every time they had the ball and made back-to-back stops late in the game to distance themselves.
“They knew they were one game from winning it all and didn’t want to go into a second game,” Hoover coach Josh Niblett said. “Offensively, we made plays. Defensively, we made some plays. We got the stops when we needed a stop, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Early on, the game was close, with both teams trading scores on the first four possessions. The Warriors, though, had to play catch-up after Tyler Queen’s first touchdown pass, when they missed the extra point.
North Cobb was still in it when Queen threw a 20-yard strike to Quentin James with roughly 12 minutes to play, but it couldn’t stop Hoover from scoring on its next possession. The Bucs stepped up to make two stops of their own and sealed the victories with back-to-back touchdown catches by Michael Powers.
“If you would have told me that we would be playing Hoover for the championship, I would have taken it,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “Now that we were here, I was little disappointed in losing the championship, but the kids fought and battled and played both ways. Great competition and hopefully this will carry over into the fall.”
Despite the loss, North Cobb still advanced into next week’s national championship at Hoover. Hoover was already assured of a berth as the event’s host.
North Cobb had a chance to knock off Hoover in the winners’ bracket semifinals earlier in the day, when it nearly rallied from a 10-point deficit. Tyler Queen found Xavier Borishade for a late touchdown, giving the Warriors a chance to win with a 2-point conversion, but the attempt came up short.
North Cobb bounced back in the losers’ bracket, routing No. 3 seed Lovejoy 21-4 before a late defensive stop helped it eliminate Hillgrove with a 21-20 win.
Like North Cobb, the Hawks also had a shot at beating Hoover in the winners’ bracket final, and maintaining their undefeated streak. But the Hawks fell 22-21 after jumping to an early nine-point lead, thanks to an interception in the end zone by Tolando Cleveland.
Missing the bulk its extra point attempts was Hillgrove’s undoing, and the Hawks couldn’t make enough stops to preserve their early lead.
“I’m not worried,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said on the back-to-back one-point losses. “The kids played hard and did good. We played excellent defense all weekend.”