You’re not going to get anybody around the Mountain Brook or Hoover football programs to admit this, but there’s a very good chance the Spartans and Bucs are going to be playing again on Nov. 25.
Both teams go on the road for their third-round Class 6A playoff battles this Friday, so nobody in either camp is going to say anything – on or off the record – about the possibility of the rematch for the ages. The self-imposed gag order, of course, won’t stop the fans and the media from speculating about the dream match of Mountain Brook-Hoover II.
Neither the Spartans nor Bucs face an easy path to the rematch. Top-ranked Mountain Brook must travel to Oxford to face a once-beaten Yellow Jacket unit. Second-ranked Hoover goes to Tuscaloosa to meet undefeated Hillcrest, who surprised many with a win over Vestavia Hills.
With that said, however, the odds are good that the pair will meet again. This time, the outcome of the entire season will be at stake.
In case you’ve been out of the country for the past several weeks, Mountain Brook defeated Hoover 17-9 Oct. 21 in an epic clash filled with the intensity of a heavyweight championship fight. The Spartans’ victory in the battle of unbeaten teams gave them their first win over the Bucs in almost three decades and ended with a feeling that the night’s verdict might not be the final say.
Mountain Brook won the first game largely because it did not lose poise or confidence as Hoover took a 9-7 lead late in the first half. The Spartans, inspired by a rabidly partisan crowd, played as a team that expected to win and did not fold during Hoover’s late, desperation surge.
If anything, Mountain Brook has played with even more confidence in recent weeks and is clearly a team that is not astonished with itself for winning. The Spartans are playing with the clear sense of purpose and direction that only success can provide. If they do indeed lose – be it this Friday against Oxford or in the two weeks that follow – it will be due to an extraordinary effort from an exceptional team.
Another key to Mountain Brook’s undefeated run is the uncanny way its players have stepped up in crucial situations. For example, against Hoover, Gavin Golsan, the Spartans’ top receiver, was effectively neutralized by the Buccaneer defense. So tight end Coates Doss became quarterback Edward Aldag’s prime target and caught seven passes for 89 yards. Six of Doss’s receptions went for first downs.
Last week, in Mountain Brook’s 31-14 rout of Huntsville, Golsan filled the rushing gap created by an injury to running back Mark Rector, gaining 78 yards on the ground. It also didn’t hurt that Golsan caught three touchdown passes from Aldag.
Rector wasn’t exactly useless against the Panthers. Despite the injury, he still rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown.
Hoover – if it survives its game with Hillcrest – will also come into the rematch better than ever. In the first game, quarterback Connor Short was making only his second start following the injury of Sam Gillikin.
Short was solid in the Mountain Brook game, completing 29 of 44 passes. The bottom line, however, was that Hoover could muster only one touchdown.
Now Short has more experience and looks comfortable in the starting role. He threw two interceptions in last week’s win over Bob Jones but also rallied the team to a dominant second half after a lackluster start.
In the first game, Mountain Brook was successful in shutting down Hoover’s best offensive weapons, including standout runner/receiver Caleb Sims. The chances of doing that again are small, even for a unit as capable as the Spartans’ defense. If Short and his receivers get hot, October’s bruising defensive battle could become November’s offensive shootout.
Who would come out ahead is anybody’s guess.
If the game did come down to a field goal, Mountain Brook’s Warren Handrahan and Hoover’s Larsen Real are generally reliable, but big pressure-filled games can do strange things to even the best kickers.
There’s also the question of outside distractions, mainly from the media hype. The Mountain Brook-Hoover rematch would be almost too big to merely play. A game of such magnitude should be waged – at least to hear the media tell it.
Both teams did an excellent job of blocking out outside distractions in the first match. The hype for a second game, with a berth in the 6A championship on the line, will be more intense than ever.
As I stated at the outset, Spartans-Bucs II may not happen. We could be watching Oxford and Hillcrest vying in the semifinals in late November. But unless something unusual occurs, it’s going to be Mountain Brook vs. Hoover again.
Pick your team and name your score. I can hardly wait.
In a story in our last issue on the current undefeated Mountain Brook football team being the first since 1976 to finish the regular season without a loss, we overlooked the 1999 and the 2003 Mountain Brook squads that also went 10-0 during the regular season. Both teams those years spent considerable time ranked number 1 in the state, with the ’99 team being ranked in the USA Today national high school poll.
We regret the error.