For the first time since accepting the head coaching job with Arcadia High football in May, Andrew Policky returned to Moyse Field on Friday to face the team he coached the previous five years — Hoover.
Evident from the lively cheers aimed toward the Apaches from the Tornadoes’ sideline, the second Pacific League game certainly carried extra meaning for Hoover because of the reunion with Policky.
Hoover was held to four three-and-outs and four other drives under six plays. The team was reduced to about 25 players with nine players, including eight starters, out mostly because of injuries.
“We felt it was the most emotional game for us, for our team, our program and the kids,” said first-year Hoover Coach Matt Andersen, who took over for Policky. “We thought it was bigger than the Glendale game. Obviously, we have to go one week at a time and each game is as important as the next one, but this was emotional for the kids playing against Policky.”
Policky was in a somber mood after the game. He didn’t even bring up the return to Hoover to his team before the game.
“It wasn’t something I wanted to be the focus of the game for us,” said Policky, who got two touchdowns each from running backs Joshua Benson (109 yards in 13 carries) and Nico Cantos (80 yards in seven rushes), quarterback Joey Harmon (11 of 17 for 149 yards, one touchdown and interception) and wide receiver Kevin Luong. “Looking back on it now, it’s nice to come back and see some kids I was proud to coach prior to this.”
Hoover’s main standout was senior wide receiver and defensive back Andres Perez. He accounted for all three Tornadoes touchdowns, the first on a 56-yard fumble return and the others on receptions of 80 and 20 yards from quarterback Se Jun Kim.
“I think it was more emotional than a regular game because we have a lot of issues with [Policky],” said Perez, who finished with four receptions for 122 yards and also forced an interception on defense. Kim completed five of 13 passes for 130 yards, two scores and an interception.
After being held to negative yardage and three-and-outs on its first two drives, Hoover (2-3, 0-2 in league) needed a pick-me-up down, 7-0. That’s where Perez’s 56-yard fumble return came in, as Arcadia (3-2, 1-1) threw a wide-receiver screen before Hoover’s Michael Barsomian forced the fumble.
With the score tied and 3:33 to play in the first quarter, the Apaches answered right back with consecutive touchdowns from Luong, the first a five-yard run and the next a 12-yard pass from Harmon. Those scores gave the Apaches a 20-7 advantage with 6:10 left before halftime.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Kim sold the play-action and then connected with Perez on a post over the middle. The wide receiver was being chased by two defenders but stiff-armed one, dodged a diving tackle attempt and outran the other for the 80-yard score.
It pulled Hoover within six, 20-14, with 5:57 to go in the first half, but Arcadia's misdirection offense wore down the Tornadoes' defense and kept it guessing.
The Apaches scored quickly on a four-play, 1:29 drive when Cantos coasted into the end zone on a 21-yard touchdown run for a 27-14 halftime edge.
The Apaches then opened the second half with an 11-play touchdown drive capped by a Benson four-yard run.
Arcadia went on to build a 33-0 scoring run and forced a running clock in the fourth quarter. There was no quit from Hoover’s offense, however, as Alvin Kim (56 yards on 13 carries) took over running back duties and helped move the chains early in a 13-play drive that was capped by Kim and Perez’s second pass-and-catch touchdown of 20 yards with 1:01 remaining.
“Honestly, we play real tight, we’re a family and that’s what we’re based on, what our team is,” Perez said. “We play with a lot more heart than skill. We’re few but we stick together and through thick or thin. We’re here and we hit it hard.”