Hoover Takes Region Title

VESTAVIA HILLS , Ala. – When the second half began at Thompson-Reynolds Stadium, a pea soup like fog had wafted over the field turf. And when the clock struck midnight – actually about 9:15 – the Hoover Bucs had captured yet another Class 6A, Region 6 title.

This title came in the first year for Josh Niblett at the helm. Niblett, who credits much of his coaching acumen to things he learned while playing for Gene Stallings at Alabama , won a state title a few years back with Oneonta, and will have Hoover in the mix again this year.

Special teams keyed the win for Hoover, but also handed Vestavia its only points of the night. Standing in his own end zone, Hoover punter/kicker Dylan Breeding had a high snap go through his hands and hit the cross bar, which means dead ball, safety Vestavia. That was a first on FNL.

Credit Breeding with rebounding to have a fine game. He began to get off punts of 40-plus (including a 59-yarder), eventually getting the Bucs some field position, and Hoover cashed in on that with a Simon Propst to JD Barnette seven-yard touchdown pass.

After a promising Rebs' drive ended with a costly interception in the end zone by Hoover's Pat Miller, the teams headed to the locker room with Hoover up 7-2, and returned to find the fog.

Hoover padded its lead to 14-2 in the third quarter when Sterling Young picked up a blocked punt and scored from in close. Breeding capped the scoring with a 43-yard field goal unencumbered by fog with seven minutes left in the game.

To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: It was not the best game of the year for Hoover's top receiver, but one can quickly see that 6-foot-2, 170-pound Maudrecas Humphrey has the tools as a very good player. Humphrey caught three passes from Propst (who is the nephew of former Hoover coach Rush Propst) for 57 yards. The longest was 36 yards, and it set up the Bucs' first touchdown. Humphrey, a junior, is the son of former Alabama and NFL running back Bobby Humphrey.

Veteran Rebels' coach Buddy Anderson, a man of few words, called Humphrey a "good player. He's very athletic."

Niblett is a man of many more words. "He's just a great player for us," he said, when quizzed on Humphrey. "He's been banged up. We didn't have him the last couple of weeks, but we're exited about getting him back. He's made some big plays for us, and come up with some big receptions. He's a physical receiver, and does a great job out on the perimeter blocking. He's a big part of our offense, not only from a ball-catching standpoint, but also how he blocks."

SUPER SENIORS: Fans of the popular 'Rick and Bubba' morning show know all about Blake Burgess, Vestavia's starting center. His dad is Rick Burgess, and his grandfather is former Jacksonville Stage coach Bill Burgess.

Niblett knew all about Burgess from film study. "He's just a great player. Football's in his blood, and he loves to play the game. He's got a passion to play the game. He's a great kid who plays hard every play, and he's got great technique. He's been well-coached."

Ironically, both Bill Burgess and Niblett coached at one time at Oxford High.

"He's a great kid, good football player, very athletic," said Anderson. Few words but accurate, nonetheless. Burgess' future could land him as an invited walk-on in the SEC. Alabama and Auburn have inquired, as he's camped at both places. Alabama likes him at defensive end, where he started for Anderson as a sophomore.

Other Rebel seniors of note: Linebacker Michael Prendergast, who along with Hoover linebacker Evan McKissack was honored pre-game by the U.S. Marines for off the field service. The Marines, by the way, deemed this year's Hoover/Vestavia game a part of their "Great American Rivalry" series. And while the Rebs lost the game, they did beat Hoover in the halftime Marine-sponsored chin-up contest. Yep.

Hoover standout seniors include the afore-mentioned Miller, along with his fellow defensive backs Justin Sly and Brian Jackson. Defensive end Ka'Vari Bolden also did well in pressuring the quarterback. Hoover quarterback Propst threw for 150 yards on 12-for-22 passing.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Vestavia scat back Michael Brown has stepped in nicely for the graduated Justin Rogers. Brown has around 900 yards thus far, and ran for 99 on 23 totes. He's around 5-10, 180.

Quarterback Ryan Howard (6-2, 185) has played well, but was off on this night, finishing with 10 completions and 24 attempts for 93 yards. He had several completions negated by penalties. The southpaw has a strong arm, strong enough that the Rebs attempted more passes in the game than an Anderson usually does in a month.

Yet another Propst, Hoover linebacker, John, plays sideline-to-sideline. Receiver/kick returner Josh Magee stood out at times.

SUPER SOPHS: Hoover has two who contribute in a big way. Defensive end Michael Nysewander and running back Jimmy Cain are two to watch, as is Vestavia's tall, rangy safety Patrick Prewett, who showed well on run support.

NO BURGERS: The horror! But the hot dogs were passable, and did have that stadium dog sauce on them.

NEXT: Prospects will abound when Dre' Kirkpatrick, Kendall Kelly and Gadsden City visit Clay-Chalkville, which features Quinton Dial and junior D.J. Vinson, a scat back.

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