Photo courtesy of hooveral.org.
0213 Hoover Met AerialHoover and Vestavia Hills will face off at the Hoover Met on Friday.
Sept. 30, 1988 and Sept. 27, 2013 — two dates separated by 25 years and 3 days. The first date was when the first high school football game was played at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (Hoover Met). The irony is the opponents involved then and now are the Buccaneers and the Vestavia Hills Rebels.
Back in 1988, the City of Hoover had just formulated its school system, and the high school then was called W.A. Berry High. The Bucs’ head coach was Bob Finley, who was in his 20th year as the top Buc after serving a four-year stint as an assistant.
Finley's teams had won two state titles in 1977 and 1982 while being runner-up in 1969. While most of his teams had winning records, some of the most recent ones had struggled — including the fact that rival Vestavia had a five-game winning streak from 1983-1987. This 1988 squad had a 2-3 record at the time, and there was pressure on Finley and his team to rise above this situation.
The year before, in 1987, the Birmingham Barons baseball team had moved from Rickwood Field into the new facility in the growing city of Hoover. That late September night was a new and exciting opportunity for the schools and football fans to have a contest between two big rivals in a place different from their own home stadiums. This spacious stadium with ample parking was a treat neither school had experienced previously. Although Finley Stadium at Berry was still considered home, this place was considered a temporary delight.
But The Met had its problems, namely the close proximity of a chain-link fence along the third baseline and the baseball field’s infield dirt remained in one end zone, accompanied by elevations along its borders. To top it off, the scoreboard and clock malfunctioned at times. However, all in all, it was probably overlooked in this brightly lit atmosphere.
In 1988’s game, the Bucs won easily by a score of 34-7 behind the contributions of a stout defense and quarterback Stan White's four scores. Both Coach Finley and Vestavia Coach Buddy Anderson praised the facility.
"This is first time we've beaten Vestavia in five years, which makes it special,” Finley remarked. “For it to be the first win in this facility just makes it especially nice."
The following week, the Bucs played their second game at the Met, barely beating Thompson 14-8. However, it helped turn a struggling season into a success as they won the rest of their regular season games and tore through the playoffs on their way to the state title game where they lost to a powerful team from Vigor in Mobile.
From 1989-1993, the Bucs continued to play more home games at The Hoover Met. The team’s final game played in the stadium as the Berry Bucs was a semi-final playoff loss to West End.
The new school — Hoover High — would claim The Met as its' permanent home. Finley was planning to continue as head coach when the new school opened in 1994, but sadly passed away a week before August practice was to begin. Mike Thorsen was named interim head coach before Gerald Gann took over in 1995.
With Gann as head coach through 1998, the Bucs played all their home games at The Met with the exception of the 1998 home opener held on the home campus. Rush Propst became head coach in 1999 and the trend continued, though there were a few early season games held on campus (named Buccaneer Stadium in 2004).
During Propst's championship-laden era, the 2005 and 2006 seasons were especially of note. During that time, MTV’s Two-A-Day series showed scenes featuring both stadiums to millions of viewers.
Josh Niblett took over the program in 2008 and has continued the championship level of excellence and success. During his tenure home games were played at The Met with the exception of the 2011 season, which was played at Buccaneer Stadium. The Met even had a brief name change to Regions Park, but that was reverted at the beginning of 2013 when the Barons moved to downtown Birmingham.
Meanwhile, The Hoover Met has continued to host big events such as the SEC Baseball Tournament in May and once hosted the NCAA men's national soccer championship finals among other functions.
However, to many people The Met is a place for football games. To old-time Buccaneer supporters like myself there will always be three Buc home fields: Finley Stadium, Buccaneer Stadium and The Hoover Met. We are very grateful and thankful for the memories of each and every