1 of 2
Photos by Ted Melton/ ActionSportsPix.SmugMug.com
Spain Park Football
Spain Park in a game between Vestavia Hills and Spain Park on Friday, September 2, 2016, at Spain Park Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.
2 of 2
TCI Sports/Barry Stephenson
Hoover captains in a game between Mountain Brook and Hoover on Friday, September 2, 2016, at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.
The battle for the city has arrived in the fourth week of the high school football season.
Last fall, Spain Park High School finally shattered the wall that Hoover built over the first 13 years of the Jags’ existence. The two teams met twice; once in the regular season and once in the Class 7A semifinals.
Spain Park won both.
The Jags defense slammed the door on the Bucs last October in a 17-0 shutout win and ended Hoover’s season in the playoffs with a 7-6 triumph to give the program its first two on-the-field wins against its rival.
Now comes Hoover’s chance at redemption, while Spain Park attempts to take a temporary stranglehold of the rivalry. Both teams come into the game with a 1-0 mark in 7A, Region 3, and a win Friday night at the Hoover Met will put one team in the early driver’s seat.
Last week, Hoover suffocated Mountain Brook to the tune of a 19-3 victory. The Bucs limited the Spartans to 102 total yards and just six first downs.
“We kept them behind the sticks,” said Hoover head coach Josh Niblett after the game. “We didn’t give up any big plays. Our staff did a really good job of putting together a game plan (and) our kids trusted in it and executed it. We play fast on defense. We pride ourselves on playing good defense. In this region, you got to play good defense.”
The Bucs had trouble finishing drives offensively, but the right leg of Barret Pickering was true, as he booted four field goals in the win.
“The biggest thing is tonight is I saw improvements in the things we did offensively between the 20s,” Niblett said. “Now we just got to finish drives. We just got to finish drives and come away with touchdowns instead of field goals. But, at the same time, in games like this, you know it’s going to be a battle and grind once you get in the red zone.”
Hoover’s defense will have to be ready for the Jags, as Spain Park quarterback Hunter Howell comes into the game riding a wave of confidence. Howell was nearly perfect in last week’s win over Vestavia Hills, completing all 10 of his first-half passes and finishing 19-of-22 for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“Hunter knows where to go with the ball. He’s doing what he’s coached to do and he’s having a lot of success. It’s a lot of fun to watch,” Spain Park head coach Shawn Raney said following the contest.
The Jags are off to a 3-0 start, and have done so behind a strong defense and opportunistic offense, led by Howell, running back Larry Wooden, and a solid receiving corps paced by Thomas Jordan and William Mee.
“Their program’s a tremendous program that we’re trying to get to. We’ll go over there and see what we can do,” Raney said.