By Lee Davis
After Hoover opened the season with two consecutive losses, some people were wondering if the Bucs were capable of adding yet another state championship to its already-crowded trophy case.
Hoover finally stopped the bleeding last week, taking a 12-0 win over Mountain Brook in a Class 7A Region 3 game that was more workmanlike than spectacular.
Critics looking for the type of Buccaneer team that has won eight state titles since 2000 may have finally found it last Friday night. Hoover was so good that even Mother Nature could not slow the juggernaut down.
Lightning and rain forced a late kickoff but couldn’t prevent the Bucs’ 35-0 rout of previously unbeaten Oak Mountain, which was coming off an impressive upset of Vestavia Hills.
Hoover wasted little time getting started. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jack Hutcheson passed 80 yards to Alex Elam for a touchdown. Hunter Schmith’s conversion made the score a quick 7-0.
The Bucs struck again with near-lightning speed. Senior running back Marcus Webb ran 76 yards for a touchdown to give Hoover a 14-0 lead with more than three minutes remaining in the opening period.
Hoover continued the onslaught in the second period. Bradrick Shaw’s one-yard touchdown plunge with 9:29 left in the first half gave Hoover a 21-0 advantage. Hutcheson’s four-yard scoring strike to Justin Johnson with only six seconds remaining in the half launched the Bucs’ advantage to 28-0.
Hutcheson’s hot hand continued into the third quarter, when he connected with Johnson for a 25-yard touchdown to bring the final score to 35-0.
“The weather delay wasn’t a problem,” Hoover coach Josh Niblett said. “Our guys were jacked up and ready to get a win. I’m extremely proud of their effort tonight.”
The Bucs raised their record to 2-2 overall and 2-0 in Region 3 play. Oak Mountain fell to 2-1 and 1-1 in league competition.
Hutcheson completed 12 of 19 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Webb gained 138 yards on 12 carries.
R.J. Arnold led Hoover’s defense with eight tackles. Jeremiah Moon had five.
The Eagles’ offense was led by Harold Shader, who rushed for 151 yards on 29 carries. Shader carried the bulk of the Oak Mountain offense, as the Eagles did not complete a pass.
Nathan Bowman and Josh Jones each had six tackles for Oak Mountain.
Webb agreed with Niblett that the rain delay didn’t hurt the Bucs.
“We didn’t talk much,” Webb said. “We just got in our position groups and stayed focused. It feels good to get another win.”
And winning–certainly within the state of Alabama–is something Hoover does better than any team in modern times. The previous two victories extended the Bucs’ winning streak against in-state opponents to 30 consecutive games. Losses to out-of-staters Miami Central and Colbert County of Georgia may have shattered the overall streak, but within Alabama, Niblett’s team is nearly invincible.
The coach wasn’t thinking about streaks late Friday night. His thoughts were only on the week ahead, when Hoover visits Thompson.
“We wanted to win and be 1-0 for the night,” Niblett said. “Now it’s the 24-hour rule. We’ll enjoy this one tonight and start getting ready for the next game.”
Hoover admittedly has a long way to go. A particularly difficult stretch of the schedule in October has the Bucs facing Spain Park, Tuscaloosa County and Vestavia Hills on consecutive weekends.
All of that is in the future. For the moment, the Hoover Bucs appear to be back on track.