If you wanted championship play and high drama on and off the field, Over the Mountain high school athletics had it all – and then some – in the 2010 calendar year.
It all began last January, when the Hoover girls’ and Homewood boys’ basketball teams were on their way to the state 6A finals. In late February, Hoover crushed Bob Jones 39-19 in the state championship game, finishing 32-1 and taking its place among the great teams in Alabama girls’ high school basketball history.
The news wasn’t as good for Coach Tim Shepler’s Patriots as Homewood fell in the finals to the Bob Jones boys’ team.
A down note in the basketball season was an unfortunate fight that took place in the Hoover-Spain Park game in the Class 6A Area 10 finals. Several Hoover players were ejected from the game, and scenes from the fracas received worldwide exposure on YouTube.
In the spring, the area’s dominance in soccer was showcased in both boys’ and girls’ competition. John Carroll Catholic earned its third consecutive boys’ championship, defeating archrival Briarwood in the Class 5A final. Hoover reached the Class 6A boys’ finals before losing to Grissom of Huntsville. Indian Springs advanced to the Class 4A-1A finals but lost to UMS-Wright.
In girls’ play, Spain Park earned its second consecutive Class 6A soccer title with a win over Grissom. The Lady Jaguars’ Annalika Steyn was easily the state’s dominant player, earning her second straight MVP award in the championship game. She was also named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Alabama.
Also in the spring, Hoover won the state 6A title in boys’ and girls’ track and field. The Buccaneer boys also had won the track title the previous year.
The football season saw controversy before the first game was played. On Aug. 24, Spain Park coach David Shores was placed on administrative leave following an alleged altercation with a player on the practice field. Assistant coach Ben Burgeson was named interim head coach and guided the Jaguars to a surprising 6-6 record that included a playoff berth.
Shores was reassigned to an administrative position at Spain Park and was not expected to have his contract renewed at the end of the school year. After the season, Burgeson was passed over for the permanent head coaching job in favor of former Hoover assistant Chip Lindsey.
On the field, there was plenty of action, too. Hoover raced through its first 14 games undefeated, with running back Justin McArthur setting a school record with 28 touchdowns for the year. Although some suspected that the 2010 Bucs would be the finest team the school had ever fielded, Daphne upset Hoover 7-6 in the Class 6A final. The Trojans held the Bucs to their lowest point total in 13 years.
Mountain Brook rebounded from a 4-6 record in 2009 to a sparkling 11-2 mark in 2010. The highlight of the Spartans’ season was a victory over archrival Vestavia Hills in the playoffs. Mountain Brook’s post-season win avenged a 17-13 loss to the Rebels in the regular season.
Many people expected Briarwood to have its best team since the 2003 state 5A champions, and Coach Fred Yancey’s team didn’t disappoint. The Lions advanced all the way to the championship game before losing to Spanish Fort.
At the end of the season, Dickey Wright announced his resignation as head coach at Homewood. He led the Patriots for five years and spent 30 years overall working in the Homewood school system.
Wright’s head coaching career began at Homewood when the school was reclassified to large-school Class 6A. Homewood was one of the smallest schools in the classification and faced competitors – like Hoover and Vestavia Hills – with much larger student populations. Despite the obstacles, the Patriots were competitive every season of Wright’s tenure.
Hoover won the state 6A championship in wrestling. The Lady Bucs swimming and diving team won its first state title since 1994, as Angelica Chapman set a new state record in the 100-yard butterfly event.
As usual, high school athletics in the Over the Mountain area in 2010 were filled with highs and lows, and memorable moments. The odds are that 2011 won’t be any different.