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Seven turnovers dooms Hillcrest against Hoover

Hillcrest’s Riley Nix (2) avoids the tackle of Hoover’s Chandler Coskery (25) during the first quarter. (Photo by Jason Harless)


TUSCALOOSA | Hillcrest trailed No. 1-ranked Hoover 14-7 at halftime, but  after allowing a 71-yard passing touchdown and committing seven turnovers, the Bucs ran away with a 31-14 victory on Friday night.


The Patriots put together a competitive first half, largely due to the performance of quarterback Riley Nix, who had eight carries and 61 yards and was 9 of 16 passing for 157 yards with a touchdown in the first half.


“He was really emotionally into the game,” Hillcrest coach Scott Martin said. “We actually had to settle him down a little bit.”


The Patriot defense kept the game close in the first half, holding Hoover to 23 yards rushing in the first half. The Patriots’ offense outgained the Bucs by 104 yards in the first half.


“Our defense played well enough to keep us in the game with a chance to win it and take the lead a couple of times,” Martin said. “But, on the whole night we had seven turnovers and when you do that, you don’t win any football games, usually."


“Our kids battled hard.”


The Patriots stumbled in the second half, down 24-7 with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter, before Nix found Caleb Campbell for the game’s first of two 71-yard touchdown strikes.


Keith Holcombe recorded two sacks and a fumble recovery for a Patriot defense that remained aggressive throughout the game.

“Keith Holcombe had a great game, but he has a great game every week,” Martin said. “So did Chris Leslie and Tre’ Alford really gummed it up in the middle.”


Hillcrest’s aggressive defense did backfire when Hoover quarterback Connor Short found Michael Powers for a 71-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bucs a 31-14 lead with 9:16 left.


“We were blitzing,” Martin said. “You’ve only got two and a half seconds to get to the quarterback. If you don’t get there until three seconds, it’s too late. They caught us a couple times and we had a few coverage malfunctions.


“We live and die that way and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


Hillcrest’s first touchdown came on a Nix  pass to Austin Williams that tied the game 7-7 with 5:09 left in the first quarter.

Hoover played part of the game without star cornerback Marlon Humphrey due to what coach Josh Niblett called, “something within the team.”


On Humphrey’s first action in the game midway through the second quarter, he made a touchdown-saving tackle and two plays later intercepted a pass to get the Hoover defense out of its own territory.


“It felt pretty good to get my confidence back up and make the play,” Humphrey said.


Hillcrest (4-3) will travel to Northport to face the Tuscaloosa County High Wildcats next week.