By Rubin E. Grant
Before the 2022 high school football season kicked off, first-year Hoover head coach Wade Waldrop said he welcomed the challenge of competing in Class 7A, Region 3.
“As a coach, who doesn’t want to be in and play in the best region around and play against the best competition?” Waldrop said.
Midway through the season, Waldrop and the Bucs have more than met the challenge head-on.
They scored their most impressive victory yet, traveling to Hewitt-Trussville last Friday and prevailing 17-7.
Using a stout defense that has become their calling card, the sixth-ranked Bucs (4-1, 3-0) held the fifth-ranked Huskies (3-2, 2-1) to only 215 total yards. Hewitt entered the contest averaging 49 points per game during its previous three games.
“I really thought we’d be good defensively this season,” Waldrop said. “Even in January and February, I could see they wanted to compete. The kids have done a good job of buying in to what we’re doing and then going out and executing.”
Hoover’s offense did enough to complement the defense against Hewitt. Senior quarterback Brewer Smith threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Jordan Woolen in the first quarter for Hoover’s first score.
The first half ended in a 7-7 tie, but the Bucs dominated the second half. They opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Senior running back Ahamari Williams scored on a 1-yard dive to cap the march.
Peyton Argent’s 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter closed the scoring.
The Bucs have won four consecutive games since a season-opening 17-14 loss to Class 7A, No. 1 Auburn in the AHSAA Kickoff Classic in Montgomery.
“I’m pleased with how we’re growing and how well we’re all growing together, with them getting to know me and me getting to know them,” Waldrop said. “Our defense is playing well and the kicking game has been solid. We knew those were the two things we’d have to lean on early in the year, giving our offense a chance to grow. I think our offense is making strides.”
Hoover will step out of the region this week when it visits Class 6A, No. 2 Mountain Brook (5-0) on Friday.
The battle between two new head coaches turned out to be not much of a battle at all.
Junior quarterback John Paul Head accounted for 212 yards total offense and two touchdowns, leading coach Robert Evans’ Vestavia Hills Rebels to a convincing 36-7 road victory against coach Tim Vakakes’ Spain Park Jaguars.
“It was a huge win ‘cause it means we still control our own destiny and we’ll continue to play a role in trying to make the playoffs,” Evans said. “Most people assume that it will be Thompson, Hoover and Hewitt who will make the playoffs from our region, leaving a spot for one of the rest of us. If we can beat Oak Mountain, Tuscaloosa County and Chelsea, we’d get in. And if we can beat Hewitt, we can get the No. 3 seed.”
Head missed the Rebels’ close 20-14 loss at Hoover the previous week because of a concussion, but he made his presence felt against the Jags. He completed 11 of 25 passes for 108 yards and rushed 15 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 11 and 12 yards, both coming in the third quarter.
Sophomore running back William Tonsmeire rushed for 108 yards on 14 carries and scored on a 51-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Rebels junior defensive end Jordan Ross also scored a touchdown when he stripped Spain Park quarterback Evan Smallwood of the ball and recovered it in the end zone.
Sophomore place-kicker Carter Shirley kicked three field goals in the first half, covering 36, 23 and 22 yards.
Vestavia Hills improved to 2-3, 1-2 in Class 7A Region 3, while Spain Park fell to 1-4, 0-3 in the region.
In assessing his team at the midpoint of the season, Evans said, “I think we can beat anybody in the state on a given night and lose to anybody in the state on a given night. I think we’re talented enough to beat anybody and our kids believe they can beat anybody.”
Homewood’s homecoming game against Benjamin Russell didn’t start off well, but it had a happy ending, thanks to senior quarterback Woods Ray.
The Patriots trailed 10-0 at the end of the first quarter but scored 24 points in the second quarter en route to a 31-24 victory at Waldrop Stadium.
Ray completed 14 of 27 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 95 yards, including a 3-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter that snapped a 24-24 tie as Homewood improved to 4-1, 3-0 in Class 6A, Region 3. Benjamin Russell (3-1, 2-1) suffered its first loss.
Homewood senior receiver Jackson Parris caught three passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, the first coming from 54 yards out and the second coming when he took a quick pass and raced 95 yards down the sideline.
Elsewhere, Oak Mountain (2-3) let a 31-20 fourth-quarter lead slip away and lost 34-31 at Tuscaloosa County (4-1) when Wildcats sophomore running back Kevin Riley scored on a 1-yard run as time expired.
John Carroll Catholic (1-4) failed to score in the second half after being tied 14-14 at halftime and lost 20-14 at Carver-Birmingham.