Gary Cosby Jr./Tuscaloosa News
Hoover’s CJ. Sturdivant (1) runs behind his offensive line against Tuscaloosa County during County's homecoming game with Hoover Friday night, September 16, 2016 in Northport.
The homestretch of the season arrives for Hoover and Oak Mountain in a big way, beginning Friday at 7 p.m. at Heardmont Park.
Each team comes off an open week and, starting this week, begins a gauntlet of four consecutive region games to determine playoff berths and seeding.
Hoover currently sits at 4-1 overall, 3-0 in Class 7A, Region 3. After opening the season with a win against Central-Phenix City and a loss to Allen (TX), the Bucs have won comfortably in their first three region contests, against Mountain Brook, Spain Park and Tuscaloosa County.
“Our biggest thing this week was to play to the standard that we wanted to set," said Hoover coach Josh Niblett, following the Bucs' 62-7 win over Tuscaloosa County. "This is a special group of kids, a focused group of kids that are hungry. They know where they want to be at the end of the year.
Oak Mountain has rebounded from a tough 0-3 start to 2-3 overall, with a 2-1 mark in the region. The Eagles won in miraculous fashion two weeks ago, as Jackson Kimbrell's last-second heave to the end zone was caught by Ethan Duncan for the game-winning touchdown against Thompson.
“Man, I’ve just got to get it up there, hope God does some work for you,” Kimbrell said of the play. “That’s all you got to do.”
The Eagles opened the season with defeats to Chelsea, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and Huffman, before rallying to momentous wins over Vestavia Hills and Thompson. Despite losing starting quarterback Wyatt Legas, Oak Mountain has risen past some of the adversity and has a chance to put itself in prime position with a win over Hoover.
In 13 meetings, Oak Mountain has never defeated Hoover. The Eagles were close last year, but fell 17-14.