By Lee Davis
During its amazing run through the 21st century, Hoover has found a way to win 10 state football championships.
But perhaps the program has never won a title quite the way it did in 2016.
Hoover’s offense was good, averaging 29 points a game, but nothing quite approaching the spectacular scoring machines directed by former coach Rush Propst a decade ago.
The latest in the long line of Buccaneer champions did it the old-fashioned way: with defense.
That storied defense was never better than in the Class 7A championship game. It held defending champion McGill-Toolen to only a late touchdown on the way to a dominating 17-7 victory at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 30.
Of course, winning with defense as the main catalyst was nothing new for Hoover in 2016. No team from Alabama scored double digits against the Bucs during the regular season. Four playoff opponents totaled only 38 points. McGill had averaged an eye-popping 40 points a game going into its match with Hoover.
The Bucs began the scoring with a 42-yard field goal by Barret Pickering in the opening period. Hoover’s opportunistic defense set up the Bucs first touchdown, when Jayden Jordan intercepted a Yellow Jacket pass at McGill’s 36-yard line. A short drive followed, climaxed by C.J. Sturdivant’s touchdown run. The conversion gave the Bucs a 10-0 halftime lead.
Sturdivant’s 37-yard scoring dash midway through the third quarter pushed Hoover’s advantage to 17-0.
The Bucs defense harassed McGill quarterback Bubba Thompson the entire evening, sacking him nine times and intercepting a pass. A late touchdown pass by Thompson enabled the Yellow Jackets to avoid the shutout, but it was far too little too late to prevent the Hoover victory.
Sturdivant rushed for 96 yards on 16 carries. Hoover’s Kholbe Coleman-Abrams had six solo tackles, two assisted tackles and a sack to be chosen the game’s MVP.
McGill never got its running game going. The top Yellow Jacket running back, Trey Roberson, gained only 18 yards on seven carries.
“A big key was making them one dimensional by taking away their running game,” Hoover coach Josh Niblett said. “They are very good at throwing the ball, but we felt if we could take away their running game it would help.”
Hoover finished its season with a 12-2 record, which included losses to out-of-state powers from Texas and Georgia.
With four championships in the past five seasons, the Bucs have established themselves decisively as the state’s number one power in Class 7A.