By Rubin Grant
Hoover’s bid for an undefeated regular season and a region championship came up empty last Friday night in Alabaster.
The No. 2 Bucs fell 39-23 to the No. 1 Thompson Warriors at Warrior Stadium. Thompson (10-0, 7-0) captured the Class 7A, Region 3 title for the second consecutive season with its fourth consecutive victory over Hoover.
The Bucs (9-1, 6-1) lost despite intercepting Thompson quarterback Conner Harrell twice after he entered the game having thrown only one interception this season.
Bucs linebacker Marcus Williams returned the first pick 70 yards to set up Constantine Hontzas’ 28-yard field goal that gave the Bucs a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
Hoover nearly had a third pick, but the Bucs’ Jay Avery was ruled to have joint possession with Thompson’s Ryan Peppins on a pass in the third quarter, and the ball stayed with the Warriors.
The Bucs also scored a defensive touchdown in the third quarter when Corey Warren sacked Harrell, forcing a fumble that was scooped up by teammate Markus Clark and returned 15 yards for the score.
It was a Hoover turnover just before halftime that shifted the momentum. With Thompson holding a 13-10 lead, the Bucs’ Massiah Tolen intercepted a Harrell pass, giving Hoover a scoring opportunity.
It ended when the Warriors’ Gavin Shipman stepped in front of a Josh Lundy pass and returned the interception 72 yards, putting Thompson ahead 19-10 at the half.
Then, on the first possession of the second half, Thompson’s Jarrett Crockett scored the second of his three touchdowns to give the Warriors an insurmountable 26-10 lead.
Hoover managed only 230 yards total offense, 115 on the ground and 115 in the air. The Bucs’ offensive touchdowns came on short runs, Jaylen Taylor’s 3-yard run in the first quarter and Dylan Pauley’s 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors had 411 total yards with Harrell completing 26 of 32 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Both of the touchdown passes were to J.B. Mitchell, covering 65 and 14 yards.
Hoover is off this week before beginning the state playoffs at home against Sparkman (5-4) on Nov. 6.