SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — Having already breathed life into its program, fan base and community with its best start since 2005, the Hoover High football team, in just two games, had already made the 2012 season a memorable one.
With one more victory on Thursday night, though, the Tornadoes would’ve garnered the greatest start to a Hoover season since 1958.
Unfortunately for Hoover, in a game that seemingly descended into a contest in which the team that made the least amount of mistakes would likely not lose, the Tornadoes brought to light woeful days of recent memory as they fell to a previously winless and scoreless Temple City, 15-14, at Moyse Field.
“We made too many mistakes and they outplayed us today,” said Tornadoes Coach Andrew Policky, whose team fell to 2-1 after opening up the season at 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
Searching for its first 3-0 start since 1958, Hoover, despite its struggles, found itself in prime position after Temple City botched a punt snap through the end zone, drawing the score to its final tally and giving the ball back to Hoover with 6:39 to play in the game.
But in an ugly foreshadowing of fate to come, a Hoover block in the back on the ensuing kickoff set the Tornadoes up on their own 33. Then on the first play from scrimmage, a Hoover receiver was called for a personal foul nowhere near the ball. With fourth and five on its own 39, Hoover rolled the dice and running back Jessie Pina barreled for five yards. Officials came together to seemingly review if the ball had been fumbled and then after a lengthy discussion brought out the chains to measure the spot of the ball and Pina had indeed got the first down.
That was the last of the positive momentum for the Tornadoes, though, as Pina burst around left tackle for 14 yards on third and 10 only to have the play called back for holding. Then, on third and 18, quarterback Brandon Kerr completed a pass to Zach Hanson right at the first-down marker, but it was called back on a holding play. A Kerr scramble thereafter led to a punt and the Tornadoes, as they’d had trouble doing all game long, were unable to keep Temple City’s plodding rushing attack from chewing up time and first downs. Thus, taking over with 3:06 to go, the Rams (1-3) ran for the final 23 yards of their 248 on the ground.
The rash of final-drive penalties, coupled with some lackluster play and two crippling turnovers were most likely Hoover’s undoing and very much Temple City’s benefit. But Policky refused to take anything from the Rams’ victory.
“They were the better team, they beat us,” said Policky, whose team stopped the program’s 17-game losing steak with its season-opening win over Blair on Aug. 24 and followed it up with a win last week against South Pasadena, but couldn’t go undefeated against its Rio Hondo League nonleague foes as it was trumped by a Temple City team that had lost 12 of its last 13, with its only win coming last year against Blair. “You could say we did this, we did that, but at the end of the day, they made more plays than us.”
Pina, who scored five touchdowns and rushed for 169 yards in 17 carries against South Pasadena, was held to 62 yards in just 12 carries. Though Hoover was without its starting left guard and left tackle, Policky said that didn’t play into it.
“They were just more physical than us,” said Policky, whose offense was shut out in the first quarter and second half.
Kerr was six of eight for 90 yards and a touchdown, but was just one of two for negative three yards in the second half. Hoover’s rushing offense totaled 120 yards, with 93 coming in the second half, but fumbled away its best drive on the Temple City 13 early in the third quarter and punted on its next two possessions before the aforementioned final, penalty-filled drive.
“It was one of those nights,” said Policky, whose defense had two takeaways. “We just didn’t have it tonight.”
Temple City, which had been shut out in its previous three games, broke its scoreless streak and took its first lead of the year on a one-yard touchdown run by Chris Reed with 9:07 to go in the first half. On the ensuing point-after attempt, the snap was botched, but in a scramble, quarterback Anthony Valencia threw a prayer into the end zone that was caught by kicker Dareece Spratt for an 8-0 lead. It was the only successful pass for Temple City, which attempted its only pass from scrimmage early in the fourth quarter and drew an offensive pass interference call.
Having punted away its first two possessions, Hoover finally found pay dirt when, on the drive following the Rams’ score, Kerr scrambled and found Hanson up the near sideline. Hanson spun through a tackle for a 24-yard touchdown reception with 6:54 to go in the half. The ensuing PAT missed badly, but Hoover retained its momentum when Pina recovered a fumble on defense three plays later.
Four plays after that, Hanson took a sweep left for a six-yard touchdown with 4:32 to go. Yet another PAT was missed and, clinging to a 12-8 lead, Hoover later fumbled the ball away and Temple City set up shop at the Tornadoes 12 with 2:01 to go in the half. But on the last play of the half, the Hoover defense stood up to a quarterback sneak from the one and celebrated into the locker room.
The celebration and the momentum was short-lived, though, as Temple City marched 67 yards in eight plays en route to a 15-12 lead it would never relinquish to open the second half. The key play on the drive for the second half’s only touchdown came on fourth and three from the Rams 40 when the Tornadoes were whistled for too many men on the field, giving Temple City a first down and a second chance.
Now, after having built more momentum to start the season than any of the last six Hoover teams have done, Policky said his team must look forward to what can be instead of what could’ve been as the Tornadoes open up Pacific League play on Thursday on the road against Burbank.