Hoover Winning Streak
By Lee Davis
But the darkness above had nothing to do with the weather. It was the hangover from the Bucs’ 24-21 defeat at the hands of a very strong Miami Central team the previous Saturday.
The loss may–repeat, may–have cost Hoover a shot at the mythical national championship. It also ended the Bucs’ impressive 30-game winning streak.
A fair case can be made that the loss may actually enhance Hoover’s chances of winning its third consecutive state championship.
I’ll talk more about how the loss to Miami Central could be a blessing in disguise later, but let’s look at the winning streak that just ended and how it was truly amazing.
Hoover’s last loss prior to Aug. 23, 2014 came in December 2011, when the Bucs lost a 35-34 squeaker to Prattville in the Class 6A title game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. From that point on, Coach Josh Niblett’s team put together consecutive 15-0 perfect seasons to claim two crowns.
What’s even more amazing is that the vast majority of the games weren’t even close. Twenty-four of the 30 wins were by a margin of more than two touchdowns. The closest shave for Hoover during the streak came on Nov. 22, 2013 when the Bucs slipped by Florence 22-21 in a third-round Class 6A playoff game. Hoover’s most lopsided victory was on Sept. 13, 2013, as the Bucs overwhelmed Jackson-Olin 63-0.
Not surprisingly, the team that consistently gave Hoover the most trouble was longtime nemesis Vestavia Hills. The Bucs won all four meetings, but both 2013 games were nail-biters. Hoover won the regular season game 17-7 in a victory marred by a controversial call. The rematch in the Class 6A semifinals was even closer, as the Bucs needed a furious comeback to prevail 31-28.
And to fully appreciate the magnitude of Hoover’s streak, it’s important to understand how special perfect seasons are at any level of football competition. For example, only one team in the history of the National Football League has ever gone wire-to-wire without a loss or a tie–the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
In college football, Paul “Bear” Bryant is generally considered to be the greatest coach of all time. In a coaching career that spanned from 1945-82, how many perfect seasons, including bowl games, did Bryant produce? Believe it or not, only three–in 1961, 1966 and 1979.
Perfect seasons don’t exactly grow on trees, yet Hoover put together two of them in a row. That’s remarkable in any league, but to pull it off at the toughest level of high school play in Alabama is truly an achievement.
While Hoover’s overall winning streak ended, another one remained intact. The Bucs’ success mark against teams from Alabama is alive and well at 28 consecutive victories
Ironically, in part because of the loss, the in-state streak could grow much longer. Miami Central is a large team physically, with great athletes packed throughout its roster. Hoover, with its offense struggling much of the game, rallied from a 21-7 fourth quarter deficit to tie the game before losing by a field goal in the final minute. Two mainstays of the Buccaneer attack, quarterback Jack Hutcheson and running back Bradrick Shaw, were injured and required treatment after the game.
Despite the deficit and the injuries, Hoover nearly came back from 14 points to defeat or at least go into overtime with one of America’s best high school teams. And while the Bucs play in Alabama’s toughest division in the new Class 7A’s Region 3, will they face another team as tough as Miami Central? That’s an open question. Certainly Mountain Brook, Spain Park, Tuscaloosa County and Vestavia–among others–are worthy opponents, but how well would they have done against the powerhouse from south Florida? There’s no way to know.
After the loss, it was clear the Hoover players had no intention of wallowing in self-pity.
“We’re not down,” said linebacker Darrell Williams. “We’re not worried about a streak. We’ll come back in here on Sunday afternoon and get back to work.”
One thing is certain. The Bucs under Niblett respond well to a defeat. After all, the last time Hoover lost a game, the Bucs rebounded to win 30 in a row.