The Hoover Buccaneers begin defense of their Class 7A state crown – and eye their fourth straight state championship – Friday night against Buckhorn at the Hoover Met.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Tickets are $8. They are available through PrepTix.
The Buccaneers (8-2) closed out the regular season with two impressive wins. They topped playoff-bound Hewitt-Trussville 38-0 and followed that up with a dominating 38-14 win over previously unbeaten North Marion of Citra, Fla., in a game televised by ESPN2. North Marion had posted four straight shutouts.
“Now the real season starts,” Bucs coach Josh Niblett said after the game. “You can tell, our kids, they smell a little something different in the air. Around here, you’re expected to win championships. If we’re going to win one, we’ve got to make sure we’re on a roll from here on out.”
Buckhorn, the third-place finisher in Class 7A, Region 4, is 6-4 overall. The Bucks from New Market, in Madison County, lost to top-ranked Bob Jones, No. 3 James Clemens and then fell to Gadsden City and Class 6A No. 4 Muscle Shoals in their final two games. On the other hand, they knocked off Austin, which beat both No.1 Bob Jones and No. 2 Spain Park this season.
The Bucs and Bucks also met in last year’s opening round, with Hoover taking a 38-13 win.
The Bucks are led by quarterback Dalen Morris, who is a running threat. Running back Dallin Woodley is the leader of a corps of backs. Will Ignot has played both linebacker and running back. Robert Ford is the team’s leading receiver.
David O’Connor is in his third season as the Bucks’ head coach and it’s the third straight year he’s taken them to the playoffs. His record at Buckhorn is 18-14.
Buckhorn has not won a playoff game since 2005 when the Bucks advanced to the Class 5A state championship game, which they lost 45-13 to Homewood.
Buckhorn High first fielded a varsity football team in 1961. The school is in a booming part of Madison County. In 2000, it had 551 students in grades 10-12. Now it has 1,032 and is the 29th-largest school in the state. Still, it’s the fourth smallest in in the 32-school Class 7A division.
If Hoover wins, the Bucs will face the winner of the Vestavia Hills-Bob Jones game. The Bucs would host Vestavia, even though the Rebels are on the road this week, because the Rebs finished behind Hoover in the region standings. They’d travel to Madison because since both hosted this week, Bob Jones is on the bottom line of the bracket.