Hoover's Sam "Newton"Gillikin has big game
August 28, 2011Hoover High School
South Panola, MS
Hoover 24, South Panola (Miss.) 13
His name is Sam Gillikin. Not Sam Newton. As in Cam Newton.
Hoover’s new quarterback just had that sort of impact Saturday in a nationally televised calling card that showed Hoover’s ship has not yet sailed from its reputation as one of the South’s top high school football teams.
A young Bucs team bottled up national power South Panola 24-13 and still looked every bit a peer on an ESPN stage with a top-rated national team.
Mississippi’s South Panola was bigger. It did not matter. Hoover played faster.
The visiting Tigers had more prospects. The Bucs seemed to be everywhere.
The South Panola team that earned national championship honors from a couple of services after the 2010 season was predictable on offense.
Hoover was not. Hoover had Gillikin, who completed 18 of his 30 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns. The senior did throw a late interception,
but also ran 13 times for 82 yards against South Panola’s physical defensive front.
Gillikin, an Auburn baseball commitment, sparked the “Sam Newton” comparison from teammate Devon Earl. The junior safety hung that on Gillikin while watching him bolt through the South Panola defense for big chunks on draws.
Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Gillikin “run the same exact plays,” Earl said. “It fits. He means a lot to our team and to what we do on offense.”
Earl and the Bucs defense did their part with a packed box that held a run-heavy South Panola game plan at bay. Gillikin gave him a chance to do that.
“There he goes,” Earl said while watching him keep moving the chains. “That’s our Sam Newton.”
Gillikin operated the offense masterfully on a crucial series that defined the game. When Hoover bowed up and stopped the Tigers on a fourth-and-3, the boys in the orange and gray seized the moment.
“This is our time so let’s stick this one in,” Gillikin said he told the offense in the huddle.
That’s when Sam went Cam and inspired Earl’s creative side.
Gillikin ran for 37 yards and threw for another 44 on a 14-play, 97-yard Hoover drive that showed there is promise to Hoover’s 2011 season despite all the new faces.
“I probably should have kicked the field goal there,” South Panola coach Lance Pogue said. “We should have been 3-3 at the half at the worst instead of seeing them go up 10-0.”
Gillikin completed his fourth of six passes on the drive when he hit Josh Jackson for a 3-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the first half.
The special teams also aided another high profile Hoover win under coach
Josh Niblett. Sophomore Marlon Humphrey made his first start at cornerback and blocked a punt after his first series.
Humphrey had several big tackles and snared an interception late in the fourth quarter to ice South Panola’s comeback.
Earl was just as happy for Humphrey. The 10th-grader is the son of former Alabama star Bobby Humphrey.
“That’s my guy,” Earl said. “That’s my project. I started as a sophomore last year and I was trying to bring him under my wing to where I was last year. He’s passed me already. ... That kid brings it all to the table.
Speed. Moves. Quicks. He can hit. He got a pick and made some big stops. He’s
on kick returns. He’s going to have a great career at Hoover.”
Antonio Connor provided the offense for the Tigers. He made it 10-6 after his 72-yard punt return with 7:46 to play in the third quarter. He had both touchdowns and ran 21 times for 122 yards.
Hoover responded with scores on its next two possessions to stop any budding momentum. Gillikin threw a touchdown to Dakota Daniel to cap an 8-play drive that covered 73 yards.
He threw another 19-yard score to Michael Powers on the next drive. Powers got five yards behind the South Panola secondary on a busted coverage with 3:38 left in the third quarter.
Some of our offensive linemen underestimated their defensive line because they thought Hoover was so much smaller, the Tigers' Connor said. They were real quick and physical and were really hitting us. They clogged up almost all our holes.”
Hoover became just the third team to beat South Panola dating back to the
Jeff Sentell is the Prep Sports Editor at the News. Write to him at email@example.com or follow him on twitter at @JeffSentell_