By Blake Ells
Hoover needed some late heroics to survive their cross-town rival on Sept. 15.
They got it in the form of a play with 1:18 left on the clock. Quarterback Jalen Parker connected with Shedrick Jackson on a 25-yard touchdown to capture a victory over No. 6 Spain Park.
Despite coming up short in the 24-27 game, Jaguars’ quarterback Braxton Barker rolled up big numbers. The senior was 22-of-34 for 298 yards with two touchdowns. One of those was a 70-yard connection with Jalen McMillan.
“Our receivers played really good,” Barker said. “I threw a lot of short passes and they did all of the work after the catch. With the athletes that we have on the outside, I can throw a lot of screens and hitches and out-routes and they’ll get 5-10 yards after the catch every time.”
That group is led by four reliable targets in seniors McMillan and Jo Jo Dennis and juniors Kenyon Hines and MJ Rogers.
“They’ve been really good,” he said. “They have made some big plays and made me look really good. They all have speed and they can all go up and get it when they need to.”
Barker is 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. He wears number 7 like his father, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame member Jay Barker, who captured a national championship at the University of Alabama in 1992. As he looks toward his future beyond graduation, he knows that he wants football to be part of it. And walking on at Alabama to follow in his dad’s footsteps is an option.
“I have a Birmingham-Southern offer,” he said. “And I’ve talked to Samford and Middle Tennessee State a little bit.”
Following his father’s path was natural. He quarterbacked his first team at 6 years old, and the position is all he has ever known. It was never something that Jay led Braxton to, and the former offers guidance only when the latter asks for it.
“Most of the time he tries to just let me do my own thing,” Braxton said. “But sometimes, I’ll ask him about different things. Whenever I do, he’s there and he helps me out.”
They’ll head to Mountain Brook on Friday for another area contest. Often called the SEC of Alabama high school football, the 7A Region 3 schedule is grueling, but Barker believes that fierce competition is what makes his team better each week. And he believes that returning to the state championship is an attainable goal. The Jaguars lost to James Clemons in 2015.
“That was a really good team that we played in Hoover,” he said. “We made mistakes that we wish we could have back, but we’ll learn from that and get better. And as long as we continue to get better week in and week out, I think we have a good shot to do what we want to do.” ❖