Jimmie Johnson hauls in a pass for the Bucs against Tuscaloosa County.
The Vestavia Hills Rebels and the Hoover Buccaneers renew their rivalry Friday night on Buddy Anderson Field at Thompson Reynolds Stadium at 7 p.m.
It will be the 50th meeting between the Rebels and the Bucs, dating back to 1972 when the then-Berry High Bucs beat the Rebels 45-0.
The Bucs hold a 30-19 lead in the series, including a 42-0 win last season. The Bucs’ current seven-game winning streak is the longest in the series.
Friday’s game is a key Class 7A, Region 3 matchup. Spain Park, which handed Hoover its only loss this season and knocked off Vestavia Hills last Friday, leads the region. The Jaguars (6-1, 5-0 region) would need to lose twice for the Bucs to win the region and top-seed, but Hoover needs to win out for that to happen. The Bucs are also tied at 4-1 in the region with Hewitt-Trussville, and the Bucs and Huskies could decide that matter head-to-head next week.
The Rebels (5-2, 3-2) control their own destiny as far as a playoff berth goes. A win over the Bucs on Friday would put them in a tie with Hoover and they’d own the head-to-head edge. The Rebels, currently all alone in fourth place in the region, lead Oak Mountain by a game. The Eagles host Spain Park on Friday.
The final week of region play is next week. If the Rebels and Eagles end up tied for the fourth spot, the Rebs would get the final playoff spot thanks to their head-to-head win in week 2 of the season.
The Bucs have struggled with consistency on offense. Coach Josh Niblett believes his team has found its identity on offense after a 45-3 win over Tuscaloosa County. The Bucs started slow but then scored on five consecutive possessions. The defense was its usual salty self. The Bucs had 10 tackles for loss. Jeremiah Moon had six tackles including a sack and a tackle for loss. Tyler Byrd had five tackles, three for losses.
“We got guys over there that like to fly around, we got guys over there that are physical and we got guys over there that like to play the game,” said Niblett. “We do a really good job of keeping you behind the sticks, where you’re second-and-long, third-and-long.”
Of course, there’s a good bit of difference between winless Tuscaloosa County and Vestavia Hills.
“I think we may have broken out, we’ll find out (against Vestavia Hills),” Niblett said. “I think … we’re starting finding a little bit of our identity.”
Christopher Vacarella was 11-of-17 passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs
gained 481 yards on 67 plays and punted just once.
The Rebels have also had some offensive struggles, but when they’ve been able to win the battle in the trenches, hard-running Walker Minor has been able to make some plays. The run sets up the play-action passing of Brett Jones. The Rebels put together an impressive opening drive against Spain Park last week, marching from their 20 to the Jags’ 8 but had a field goal blocked for a touchdown that completely flipped the momentum in a 21-0 loss.
Defensively, Dillon Campbell led with eight tackles against the Jags. Nate Lewis, Reid Adams and Nolan Turner have also been defensive standouts.
The more-physical team is likely to come out victorious. Field position, mistakes and penalties are likely to play a big part in this game. The Bucs have been penalty-prone, and the team that makes the fewest errors is likely to come out the winner in this rivalry game.