Photo by Ted Melton
USA Football 7-on-7 National Championship
Josh Niblett leads the Hoover football team into his ninth season as head coach.
The Hoover High School football team has two lengthy road trips to open up the season, but such is life for a premier football program.
A trip to Montgomery and the Cramton Bowl awaits the Bucs first, as they open the season on Friday at 7 p.m. against Central-Phenix City.
Both teams were Class 7A semifinalists last fall, and are perennial contenders in the state's highest classification.
Last year marked the first time in head coach Josh Niblett's eight years at Hoover that the Bucs did not advance to the state finals, as they fell to crosstown school Spain Park, 7-6, in the semifinals.
That result did nothing to dampen the efforts of the team throughout the spring and summer.
“The last seven months probably have been some of the best we’ve had since I’ve been there," Niblett said. "We’ve had a really good offseason. This group’s locked in, focused, hungry.”
But Hoover has not used that loss against Spain Park as motivation, because of something Niblett noticed last fall.
“In our program, sometimes it’s a relief to win, instead of joy, because of the expectations," he said. "I remember when we won it two years ago, and I’m just speaking for myself, when we won, it was kind of like you took a deep breath.”
But there's no more of that. Niblett told his group he was changing the mindset.
He said, “In our program, we celebrate the winners.”
In order to celebrate the winners on Friday night, the Bucs will face a squad they are not overly familiar with. They have only faced Central-Phenix City once, in a 1978 state playoff game.
The Red Devils are familiar with the venue, as they played at the Cramton Bowl once last season, and have a pair of games slated there this fall.
Check back with hooversun.com for in-depth coverage following the game.
The Starnes Publishing prep football preview magazine is now available, and can be found at many locations in the area. A look at Hoover's 2016 season can be found here.