Male Athlete of the Week: Falcons’ offensive line paves way for Hoover’s big night

Hank Hoover Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Hank Hoover had a night worthy of The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week honor in Central’s football game against Warren County last Thursday night, but if the Central senior had his way the award probably would’ve been shared among the players clearing his path.

Hoover put up the big numbers – 25 carries, 191 yards and four rushing touchdowns – in Central’s 46-0 Homecoming rout but it was the Falcons’ offensive line and fullback Zach Bokanyi that Hoover said were the real stars in a game that was pushed up a day due to inclement weather.

“Once again you’ve got to thank the line. They gave it all for us,” Hoover said before practice Monday. “I watched it (on film) over the weekend and there was one time Zach was – he took two guys down and was still ahead of me. That right there is dedication. … You just go back and just watch – I can’t even put it into words. The line was just, it was wonderful.”

The Falcons set the tone on a soggy, chilly evening with an opening drive that featured six running plays that netted 60 yards and a touchdown. It was Hoover’s first scoring run of the night – a 24-yard scamper to cap the possession – that epitomized the night Central had, as Bokanyi and sophomore offensive lineman Andrew Miller paved the way with great downfield blocking.

“It’s pretty nice to have Andrew Miller in front of you, and the sideline’s on your right side, then Zach’s on your left,” Hoover said. “It’s just like you’re in a little bubble almost. No one’s gonna touch ya.”

Hoover, who had 20 of his 25 carries in the first half, went on to find the end zone three more times. On Central’s second possession, he capped a 47-yard drive with a 1-yard score, a toss to the right during which he hurdled a would-be tackler near the pylon. The following possession, Hoover scored from 19 yards out after juking a Warren County defender near the 15 and dragging another tackler inside the 5-yard line before stretching the ball across the goal line. He scored again on an 8-yard run in the third quarter.

Hoover, who said his four rushing touchdowns tied the school’s single-game record, also had a 13-yard touchdown run called back due to a holding penalty on the Falcons’ fourth possession of the game.

“I was not getting touched until five or six yards, and then I would get touched but it still didn’t matter because it was just one guy,” said Hoover, who averaged 7.6 yards per carry in the win. “That makes my job way easier when you only have to deal with one guy because as a running back your job is to make one guy miss, as (head coach Mike Yew) says, and I think that really, really helped me and then helped the team.”

Hoover, who has rushed for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, said the Falcons’ offensive line generated its strongest push of the season Thursday night.

“Something sparked,” Hoover said. “I don’t know if it was just Homecoming or what, but something really did change. … I’m hoping it’ll carry on to this next game.”

Hoover, who has already carried 128 times this season, has filled the workhorse role he was expected to play after leading the Falcons in rushing yards, touchdowns and total tackles in 2014, his first year as a varsity starter. Yew said Central’s coaching staff recently moved Hoover from middle to outside linebacker in an effort to take “a little bit of the pounding off of him every game.”

Hoover said he’s more familiar with his role with a season now under his belt, and Yew said the 6-foot, 180-pound senior has shown more patience as a runner this fall.

“If he does anything better now than he’s ever done it he kind of picks and chooses his holes,” Yew said. “All running backs love to bounce it to the outside. I think he hears me say it enough, sometimes you’ve got to stick your nose in there and get two tough yards. I think he embraces that now more than he ever did.”

Central’s win last Thursday ended a two-game slide that included a loss to Clarke County in its Bull Run District opener two weeks ago. The Falcons (2-3, 1-1 Bull Run), who played without four suspended starters in their first three games, are hoping to build on their recent victory when they travel to Madison County on Friday night.

“We’re really excited about where we’re at considering everything we’ve gone through,” Yew said. “Our kids have grown up this year as a result of some of the things we’ve been forced to deal with and that’s part of life. That’s what we want our kids to take from it – keep your goals in sight and our goals certainly still haven’t changed. We want to be in the playoffs and we’ve got to get three or four or five more wins to get in and that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com