By Rubin E. Grant
Hoover senior cornerback Jabari Moore sometimes feels sorry for opposing defensive backs.
That’s because they have to deal with the Bucs’ stellar senior wide receiver George Pickens.
“We have been going one-on-one in practice every day since we were freshmen,” Moore said. “He’s one of the best of the best. That’s what makes Friday nights somewhat easy for me because I don’t have to cover him.”
For the other team’s defensive backs, Pickens is a nightmare. And he was scary good last Friday when Hoover beat Mountain Brook 31-7 at the Hoover Met to claim the Class 7A, Region 3 title.
Pickens touched the ball five times and scored on three of those while amassing 269 all-purpose yards. He caught three passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, covering 75 yards and 57 yards.
“He’s got a big frame and he’s able to block out defensive backs and make plays with his hands,” Moore said. “Some of the plays he makes are unbelievable. I don’t know how he does some of the things he does.”
Pickens also returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and had another punt return for 34 yards.
Pickens shrugged off his performance. “We just went with the coaches’ game plan and took advantage when we could and were able to secure the win,” he said.
The Bucs had more than 500 yards total offense with junior quarterback Robby Ashford completing 10 of 17 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 81 yards.
“He’s really stepped up,” Moore said. “He’s only 16, but he does a good job leading our offense.”
Meanwhile, Hoover’s defense held Mountain Brook to only 161 total yards.
“We’ve got a new defensive coordinator, coach (Chad) McGehee, and he brought in a new scheme and has us ready for every game,” Moore said.
The Spartans’ only touchdown came in the first quarter after Jarret Harrison blocked a punt and gave Mountain Brook first-and-goal at the Hoover 8-yard line. The Spartans scored on a trick play when wide receiver Hamp Greene threw a reverse pass to Pierce Rodrigues, who made a diving grab in the end zone.
Hoover (7-2, 6-1) has won five consecutive games since a 56-28 loss at Hewitt-Trussville on Sept. 14.
“We knew we had the possibility of getting back to win the region championship,” Moore said. “We just had to get on a winning streak. After the loss to Hewitt, we came together and started working more as a unit.”
The Bucs clinched the No. 1 seed in the region by virtue of winning the head-to-head tiebreaker with No. 2 Thompson. Mountain Brook (7-2, 5-2) is the No. 3 seed.
“We are all about championships here at Hoover, but this isn’t the one we want the most,” Hoover head coach Josh Niblett said. “We want the state title.”
The two-time defending Class 7A champion Bucs will host Bob Jones in a first-round playoff game on Nov. 9, while Mountain Brook visits Austin.
Hoover closes the regular season this Friday, playing host to IMG Academy from Florida.
“We’re playing a team that is nationally ranked,” Moore said. “This is a team that will help us get ready for the playoffs.”
The Bucs lost to IMG 32-21 last year in the regular-season finale.
“If we can start off strong and finish strong, I think we’ll have a chance to beat them,” Moore said.