The opening week of the high school football season proved to be a coming out party of sorts for two Over the Mountain players.
Spain Park senior quarterback Harrison Barker earned the first AHSAA Prep Offensive Spotlight of the season and Hoover junior placekicker Constantine Hontzas earned the AHSAA Special Teams Spotlight.
Barker made his first varsity start one for the ages, completing 28 of 38 passes for 488 yards and four touchdowns to lead Spain Park to a 42-33 victory at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
The 488-yard effort was a school record and the 14th-highest passing performance in AHSAA history, according to the AHSAA Record Book. It was the third-best effort since 2016. The top two efforts were 507 yards by current Alabama freshman Taulia Tagovailoa in a game against Oak Mountain in 2018 and Aaron Dove’s 503-yard effort in a game against Coosa Christian in 2017. James Raines passed for 563 yards in a 71-22 Berry win over Brilliant in 2016.
The state record of 565 yards was set by Chris Smelley of American Christian in a 43-31 Class 1A playoff loss to Brantley in 2005.
Hontzas Cool Under Pressure
Hontzas kicked a game-winning 30-yard field goal as time expired to give Hoover a 17-14 victory against defending Class 7A state champion Central-Phenix City in the 2019 AHSAA Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.
Lightning delayed the game for more than two hours, and with the clock bearing down on midnight, Hontzas waited through two timeouts before ending the game with his clutch field goal.
Hontzas took over the Bucs’ kicking chores this season, inheriting a spot where the Bucs excelled for several years with Barret Pickering, now at Nebraska, and Will Reichard, now at Alabama.
Hontzas also kicked two extra points, delivered three kickoffs for a net return of 15 yards and booted five punts for a 39.6-yard average – and more importantly, no return yardage.
His winning field goal capped a dramatic 11-play drive that started with 4:22 left at the Bucs’ 2-yard line and ended with the ball on the Red Devils’ 13-yard line with three seconds remaining. Central called consecutive timeouts each time just seconds before the snap, but Hontzas calmly kicked the ball through the uprights as time expired.
Hoover senior quarterback Robby Ashford was runner-up to Barker for the offensive honor. He directed the Bucs’ come-from-behind victory as they rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit and snapped Central’s 14-game winning streak.
Ashford completed 9 of 21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from freshman receiver R.J. Hamilton in the third period for Hoover’s first score.
After the Bucs forced a Central fumble at their own 3-yard line, Ashford led an 84-yard, 11-play drive to set up Hontzas’s field goal. Ashford completed passes of 28 and 20 yards and had a big 13-yard run for a first down to stop the clock at the Central 16-yard line with three seconds remaining.
A few other noteworthy performances mentioned by the AHSAA:
Hoover’s Josh Smith had 12 tackles and one sack, and he recovered a fumble at the Bucs’ 2-yard line late to set up Hoover’s game-winning drive.
Mountain Brook’s Logan Brewer scored on a 20-yard touchdown reception and a 67-yard interception return in a 35-6 victory over Northridge.
John Carroll Catholic’s Jeremiah Gibbs rushed 24 times for 275 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-20 victory over St. Clair County.
And Oak Mountain’s Evan Smith ran for 100 yards, including a 59-yarder to set up a field goal, and he scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards as the Eagles overcame nine fumbles to beat Chelsea 17-0.
—Rubin E. Grant
High School Football Week 2
Mountain Brook 24, Center Point 6
Senior running back Sam Higgins looks for running room in the Spartan’s win over the Eagles.
Mountain Brook’s Matt Holloway closes in on a Center Point runner.
Highlight: Mountain Brook defensive back Logan Brewer intercepted Center Point quarterback Jayson Jones, returning it for a touchdown from 37 yards out in the second quarter. Logan’s pick-6 streak now stands at two games. — Jordan Wald
Sept. 6 Games
Pleasant Grove at Briarwood
Homewood at Pelham
Hoover at Thompson
Fairfield at John Carroll
Tuscaloosa County at Mountain Brook
Hewitt-Trussville at Oak Mountain
Spain Park at Vestavia Hills