Hope scores 88 in season-opening win

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – Hope Christian was without Tony Nafe for the first time in five years when they took to the field at Buck Creek Park in Alabaster for their first football game of the 2017 season on Friday, Aug. 18; but it was evident Nafe was there in spirit helping his Eagles soar toward the end zone all night long.

It was former team trainer Matt Davis that got the nod as Hope’s new head coach and he couldn’t have asked for a better debut to his coaching career than what he got.

In 2016, the Eagles finished 3-5 overall after averaging 28.5 points per game, which isn’t too bad of a number offensively, but for Davis and his team, that number wasn’t enough.

In a rematch of last year’s opener against Tabernacle, Hope clearly still had some unfinished business after falling 42-28 on the road. This time around, on their home field, the Eagles were out to make a statement and that statement came via 88 points in an unbelievable, down-to-the-wire, 88-72 win over the Torches.

Hope more than tripled its output from last year’s game as well as last year’s points per game total for the season in the team’s jaw-dropping debut for the 2017 season.

It wasn’t as surprising from Tabernacle, who had become accustomed to games like this, but couldn’t have been the start to the new season they wanted. In 2016, the Torches were torched defensively giving up 46.9 points per game, including 82 to Russell Christian, 64 to East Memorial and 60 to Tuscaloosa Christian.

Tabernacle got used to relying on offense to outscore opponents during those games scoring 92, 84 and 64 points themselves and on Friday night it was evident that was going to be the case again in 2017.

The important aspect for the Eagles is that it proves they can hang with anybody in eight-man football giving them strong aspirations to compete once region play starts in two weeks.

It also helps that the Eagles were tested in a tense game that went down to the wire to start the season, which should only help boost their confidence level down the line when put in pressure packed situations.

For the majority of the first half, Tabernacle played from in front and took an eight-point 52-44 lead into the half as only one punt occurred in the first 24 minutes of the game.

The second half was a much different ball game, however, as the Eagles seemed to wear down the Torches defense holding them to just 20 points in the half, while their offense took advantage and scored 44 additional points for a balanced attack.

As for the scoring, just about everybody got in on the action as six different Eagle players scored touchdowns.

Tyler Hubbard picked up one touchdown pass on offense and another touchdown when he snagged a pick six on the defensive side of the ball. Peyton Long also had multiple touchdowns in different facets of the game after pounding one in on the ground and sprinting another one in for a kickoff return to the end zone.

Jardel Cleveland and Ethan Key each picked up one rushing touchdown apiece, while Sam Brechin was on the receiving end of Hubbard’s touchdown pass.

All of those guys scoring is enough for any normal football game, but clearly quarterback Jackson Davis wasn’t playing in just any normal game as he picked up six touchdowns of his own, almost equaling the entire rest of the team.

It was a strong consistent team effort throughout the game for Hope and a major statement for Davis and his team of athletes to make as other teams will have no choice but to take notice of the Eagles’ offensive ability.