Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
EL CAJON – In its season opener on Saturday night, Hoover made a solid first impression. The Cardinals played a complete game against Christian en route to a 35-0 victory at Granite Hills High.
“Our guys just played their absolute hearts out tonight and I’m just so proud to get that first win,” said Hoover head coach Cree Morris. “It’s always good to win the first one.”
In addition to shutting out the Christian (0-1), Hoover’s defense forced six Patriots turnovers. The Cardinals first four touchdowns came following a turnover.
“Our defense was absolutely phenomenal and played outstanding,” Morris said. “My defensive coordinator and I have been together for about 20 years and he does a great job getting the kids ready to play and understanding concepts and schemes.”
Hoover (1-0) took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by running back Deshawn DeGrate. Already trailing, Christian took another blow early in the second quarter when star quarterback Shane Dillon suffered a left knee injury and had to leave the game.
“I was bummed to see him get hurt for the simple fact that I like to play against the best and was excited about seeing him,” Morris said.
Dillon returned to the field after halftime and played the third quarter with a noticeable limp before being replaced under center by freshman Seth Collins. Christian never really found an offensive rhythm against Hoover’s quick defense with either quarterback.
“We’ve been working hard as a team and we came out here and played as one,” said Hoover defensive back Arthur Wilson.
Offensively, Hoover took chances throughout the game that paid off. Just before halftime the Cardinals made it 14-0 on a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dionte Whitfield to receiver Tarell Little on fourth down. And facing a fourth down in the third quarter, Degrate ran for a 21-yard touchdown to extend Hoover’s advantage to three touchdowns.
“I’m kind of a go for it coach. We’re just going to try and go for it and let the kids make plays,” Morris said. “We were lucky enough that they did.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, Wilson added to Hoover’s lead with a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown. The senior’s score put the Cardinals up 28-0.
“The receiver cut in and his eyes were going towards the sideline, so I just cut it off, picked it off and took it to the house. I watched film and I knew that play,” Wilson said.
Hoover finished the decisive victory over Christian with a 32-yard Damonte Holiday touchdown run in the final minute. On both sides of the ball, the Cardinals played at a fast pace until the final whistle.
“Our goal is to play four quarters,” Wilson said. “It’s not really the first and second quarters that count, it’s the third and fourth and finishing out the game.”
After closing last season with five straight losses, it didn’t take long for Hoover to get back in the win column this season. The last time the Cardinals won a season opener was 2007.
“We’ve just been working hard all week. People have been doubting us, but we came out here and proved a couple people wrong,” Wilson said. “Christian is no pushover, so this win proves a lot.”
Pictured: Hoover running back Damonte Holiday (2) gets vertical to celebrate a fourth quarter touchdown with his Cardinals teammates.
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