First published in the Sept. 4 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
The undefeated Hoover High School’s varsity football team continued its early season roll by defeating visiting Lynwood High, 20-13, on Aug. 27 in a nonleague matchup.
With the victory, the Tornados (2-0 record) are off to their best start to a season since 2016, when they won their first three games. The current roll is especially sweet for Hoover players, coaches and supporters because the school was unable to field a varsity squad last season.
“When I got hired [in 2019], the program had just had sort of a catastrophic meltdown, and there were three players left in the entire program at that point,” said Azad Herabidian, Hoover’s head coach. “[Kevin Amiri, Gabriel De la o and Athena Kelechian] deserve all the credit because when all they could have seen was darkness, they saw the light. The motto of our team is hard work pays off, and these kids are experiencing that now.”
Hoover quarterback Ethan Davis got the Tornados started by running in his first of two touchdowns with 6:05 remaining in the first quarter. Kicker Daniel Baneham’s PAT pushed the lead to 7-0.
The second quarter saw Lynwood High answer as, with 10:19 left to play, Lynwood scored its first touchdown but failed to convert the PAT, leaving Hoover with a 7-6 lead.
About two minutes later, Lynwood scored its second touchdown and converted the PAT for a 13-7 lead.
Hoover literally flipped the script by scoring 13 points while holding Lynwood scoreless in the third quarter to retake the lead. With nine minutes left to play, Davis ran for his second touchdown of the contest and Baneham’s second conversation gave the Tornados a 14-13 lead.
Hoover’s final scoring drive was capped off when Davis connected with tight end Frank Higginbotham connect for a 23-yard touchdown with 3:33 remaining in the third quarter, increasing the lead to 20-13.
Both teams were held scoreless in the final quarter.
“One thing I saw from the team is our ability to come together when it’s needed,” said Marcus Bailey, Hoover’s wide receiver. “There could be a lot of butterflies, a lot of nervousness, but when it matters, the team is able to come collectively together and we’re able to execute.”
Davis had an excellent offensive game, with a team-high 77 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns. Fullback Isaac Perez carried six times for 33 yards and Ahcuxtal Vilchis-Blaney had four carries for 36 yards. Bailey and Samvel Mamalashvili had two and one carries, respectively.
“[Davis] is an electric athlete,” Herabidian said. “He’s an amazing athlete. He makes good decisions. He’s got great instinct and we even got him out there on defense, made an interception and ran it back for  yards.”
Higginbotham and wide receiver Adam Rivera each had three receptions for 37 and 19 total yards, respectively. Wide receiver Joseph Dizon added two receptions for 19 total yards.
Hoover’s defense rose to the occasion. Higginbotham and De la o anchored the line with seven total tackles each, while Perez added four solos. Rivera, Bailey, Amiri and defensive end James Phanthumchinda each had three solo tackles and combined for eight assists. Mamalashvili, Baneham, center Jiro Danetaras, safety Branden O, and guards Roberto Zegarra and Ryan Oh each recorded one solo tackle.
“Marcus Bailey, our defensive line, our captains Kevin Amiri and Gabriel De la o, all of them stepped up,” Herabidian said.
Hoover hosted Beverly Hills High in a nonleague game last night. The result was not available by the News-Press’s deadline. The Tornados are scheduled to play at Edward R. Roybal Learning Center in Los Angeles in a nonleague game on Friday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m.