Hoover wowed everyone two weeks ago with execution, time management, and coaching when faced with a 21-0 deficit against Spain Park. The Bucs were nearly flawless in the second half after a very slow start in the first half of the game. Hoover pulled out the victory 24-21.
The game against Mountain Brook last week may have been a 30-0 decision, but the halftime score was 14-0. The Bucs just looked flat and played sloppy.
Mountain Brook had a hard time moving the ball in the first half and had their own fair share of self-inflicted wounds. The second half was a different story as they did in fact move the ball on the Bucs' defense, and their own defense held up well against a brutal offensive barrage from Hoover.
Coach Josh Niblett was not overwhelmed with his team's ability to finish the game in his post-game interview. The favorite for the 6A state championship can little afford to play that kind of game this week against Coach Buddy Anderson's Vestavia Rebels.
The Rebels had a chance at a 7-0 record also if not for a wild game against Pelham in the rain. Vestavia was up 21-0 in the second half only to have the Panthers tie it up and force them into three overtimes where they lost by a 40-39 decision.
"It was a very unusual game, but they were ready to play and we weren't ready to play," Anderson said.
Coach Anderson knows the task is tall this week, but as his teams tend to do, they get stronger as the year progresses. They defeated Spain Park 21-10 last week after leading 21-0 early.
"We'll have to play the best we can," Anderson said. "A mistake-free game. We can't give them anything. We have got to play sound in the kicking game. Last year we gave up 10 points in the kicking game. They blocked a punt and ran it in for a touchdown. We fumbled a punt, and they got three points. They didn't even get a first down, but got three points out of that with a field goal."
"We can't spot them 10 points. We've got to play sound in the kicking game and real sound on defense. They are going to move the ball, try and control the football. They've got a good defense, so it's going to be a big challenge."
Last year's game resulted in a 17-2 win for Hoover.
Hoover has a lot of offensive weapons to keep up with. "Yes they do," Anderson agreed.
Vestavia has a very capable senior quarterback in Ryan Howard.
"He's playing well, played well all year. Very intelligent, very good quarterback," Anderson said.
Howard posted three touchdowns through the air against Spain Park right out of the chute last week. He completes nearly 70-percent of his passes. While that sounds all well and good everyone knows a Coach Anderson team wants to run the ball. They did indeed run the ball, 41 times.
Vestavia has two big tackles on the offensive line in senior Drew Dearman (6-2 ,270) and sophomore Justin Ivory (6-5, 350).
Reid McFarland picked off two passes against Spain Park last week, and Hoover likes to throw the ball. He could become a factor this week.
Vestavia is just a hop and a skip from Hoover, but Coach Anderson does not think home field advantage will make a difference and hr gave us his standard answer.
"No. Every field is 100 yards long, and you've got to play whether you are home or away," he said.
Hoover has the ability to get away from Vestavia in this game, but don't sell short Coach Anderson's motivational factor. They might just be tired of hearing about Hoover, and they will certainly leave it all on the field for their coach of 32 years.
Coach Anderson talked about it, but it is imperative the Rebels stay away from mistakes. If they are to come away the victors in this region game they will need to play near perfect.
Players to watch for Hoover:
Junior quarterback Ryan Carter is a veteran now with two huge come from behind victories on his resume' this season. He is playing with a lot of maturity.
Senior receivers Josh Magee and Maudrecus Humphrey, Magee was pulled from the game last week after an injury, but that will just make Humphrey's role all that more important this week.
Hoover's defense, pick a spot. They are good all the way around, but it is important for the Bucs' offense to keep Vestavia's offense off the field. The Rebels will just grind and grind and try to wear them down.
Yratings.com picks Vestavia to win by four.
If this game was played last week following the Spain Park effort I would go along with that, but after last week's inability to put the game away early, I think this week the Bucs will have a point to prove. They know they didn't play like they were capable of playing last week making uncharacteristic mistakes. I can't see a repeat of that performance this week.