Copyright Ron Burkett
Hoover vs. Oakland-4.jpg
Hoover running back CJ Sturdivant looks for running room against Oakland.
Fresh off a Saturday night win in Tennessee over Oakland of Murfreesboro, the Hoover Buccaneers face an opponent from Florida at the Hoover Met on Friday.
Manatee High of Bradenton, Fla., will open its regular season against Alabama's top-ranked Class 7A squad.
The Hurricanes were 12-2 last season, reaching the Class 8A semifinals. They routed Largo 44-6 in a preseason kickoff game.
"From the film we watched on them, they're big and fast and strong," Bucs coach Josh Niblett said. "Defensively, they've got a lot of length on the edge, they like to bring a lot of pressure, they try to force the issue.
"They're very multiple on offense, so it'll be more like what our defense sees from our offense in practice."
Last week, the Bucs had the challenge of facing the wing-T, an offense that's not run as much in the Birmingham area as it once was. It likely will be the only time all year Hoover will face that offense. Niblett was pleased with how his team responded to the challenge. The Bucs defense held Oakland to 114 yards of total offense. "I thought we ran to the ball well, played fast and physical. Gave up one big running play and one pass play and that was just about all their offense."
Still, Niblett said his defense made some mistakes and is working on fixing those, plus cutting down on the 126 yards in penalties Hoover was called for.
"We've got to play better than we played last week, but I'd like to think your most improvement comes from game 1 to game 2."
In the Bucs' 24-6 win over Oakland, Christopher Vacarella threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers -- Quincy Cox, Jimmie Johnson and Shedrick Jackson.
The running game, which collected 148 yards on 30 carries was just "so-so," Niblett said. "It's a work in progress. What killed us in running the football is we had too many negative plays in the running game, which negated some good plays. We'd be first-and-10 and before you know it we'd be third-and-13. Part of that's being the first game. And our center is young, our right guard is a first-year starter, our left tackle is a first-year starter ... all of our running backs are first-year starters and you've got a first-year starter at quarterback, your X and Z receivers are first-year starters. For how we played offensively and knowing how many points we left on the field, I was proud of those kids.
"We've just got to make those plays we needed to make, and we've got to do that this week for sure."
Special teams could be a factor in this one. Manatee's kicker Nick Null, drilled a 45-yard field goal and delivered five kickoffs into the end zone. Kavious Price had a kickoff return for a touchdown and a long punt return, plus another Hurricane had a long punt return.
Bucs kickoff man Barret Pickering booted four into the end zone against Oakland, and Niblett said, "It will be huge if we can kick the ball into the end zone. Pick's got to have a good night and we've got to make sure we cover well. We've got to be very sound in special teams."
The Bucs worked hard on special teams on Monday.
The shorter week, after having played on Saturday, changed the Bucs' normal routine a little.
They usually come in Sunday afternoons, lift, run and watch some film. Niblett gave them Sunday off. The coaching staff came in and broke down film and put in the game plan. Mondays are usually in pads and helmets, but this Monday was just helmets and shorts and cut practice back a little, worked on mental things and "get healed up a little bit. It isn't going to do us any good in beating up on each other and then go out Friday beat and battered. Because we've got to go full speed Friday if we're going to have any chance to win."
Wide receiver Johnson sliced his finger open in the Oakland game in the first half, got it stitched up and played well in the second half. Cortez Hall injured his ankle but played through it and also played well.