Photo by Barry Stephenson.
Hoover coach Josh Niblett talks to his team during the Oak Mountain game on Sept. 11. The Bucs won 17-14, giving Niblett his 100th win as Hoover head football coach.
The Hoover Buccaneers welcome the North Marion Colts from Citra, Fla., and the cameras of ESPN2 as the Bucs close regular-season play Thursday night.
Not only is this a national showcase and a braggin’ rights Border Wars game, this game has playoff implications for the Bucs, who sit in a three-way tie for the runner-up spot – and homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs, Hoover, Hewitt-Trussville and Vestavia Hills are the knotted teams behind region champ Spain Park.
The Buccaneers (7-2, 5-2) have clinched a playoff spot, but who finishes where in Class 7A, Region 3 has come down to AHSAA playoff tiebreaker “L.”
The tiebreaker comes down to defeated non-region opponents – that is, the non-region teams you beat – and their number of wins.
Only nine of the 16 teams in the 7A playoffs are locked in their spot. In fact, the Region 3 runner-up and its opponent won't be known till after Friday night's games. Region 3 is paired with Region 4, which includes top-ranked Bob Jones and runner-up James Clemens. The 3 and 4 teams from Region 3 will travel to Madison for their games. The runnerup will host the Region 4 No. 3 team, which will be either Buckhorn, Hazel Green or Gadsden City.Spain Park hosts the fourth-place team from that region.
A Bucs win Thursday should settle the issue. North Marion is 8-0. That would be a sufficient amount of points regardless of other outcomes, as we figure it. They currently have wins over Oakland, Tenn., and Manatee, Fla., for 14 points. Vestavia has 10. Hewitt has 7. But if the Huskies beat Clay-Chalkville, they'd pick up 9 more points from the unbeaten Cougars.
So the Bucs can make things easier with a win Thursday.
Then again, the Colts are 8-0 for a reason.
The Colts are led by quarterback Caleb Seiler, who’s thrown for more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has Florida commitment Freddie Swain to throw to, and running backs Justin Watkins and Cameron Watkins have combined for some 1,400 yards rushing. Junior offensive tackle Blake Vinson already holds offers from Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
The defense has given up less than 250 yards rushing all season. Senior linebacker Elijah Vukovich and senior defensive back is Amir Howard are the leading tacklers.
The Bucs, though, may have gotten untracked offensively last week in a 38-0 rout of Hewitt.
“These guys have a little something in them, we just got to keep tapping into it,” coach Josh Niblett said. “We’ve got a chance to be something special. There are a lot of doubters out there about us. We just got to make sure we keep our locker room and our culture the way we want it to be.”