Sure enough, Hoover destroyed Daphne 56-14 last Saturday to give Bucs their fourth consecutive championship, a first in AHSAA history. Seniors like Dwarn Smith, a 6-0, 220-pound defensive end, have gone 20-0 in playoff games over the course of their four years in the program. Smith said Wednesday that this one was no less special than the previous three.
"Being a senior, playing my last game in the state championship, it all meant a lot to me, said Smith. "After we lost in the fifth game of the season, nobody really thought we could do this."
Smith was responsible for a big play early in the game that seemed to ignite the Bucs' onslaught.
"My motor was running constantly," he said. "They were driving on us in the first quarter. I made a big hit, caused a turnover, picked up the fumble and got a few yards on the return. Then on the next drive I got a big sack to set up a blocked punt."
Smith and his teammates have certainly not lacked for exposure this year. One game was televised on ESPN, the championship game was televised statewide, and MTV cameras have been following the team all season for an upcoming documentary. Through most of the season, the Bucs have been ranked in the USA Super 25.
For Hoover's seniors, the state championship run has consumed their weekends and postponed most thoughts of recruiting. Though Hoover as usual boasts a host of college prospects, none have made commitments yet, Smith said. That is sure to change by signing day, however. Besides Smith, Cornelius Williams, C.J. Bland, Max Lerner, Bryan Morgan and Bo Stephens could all wind up signing somehwere on Feb. 1.
Propst used Smith as a defensive end, but often dropped him into coverage because of his 4.69 40-speed. Most colleges are looking at him as an outside linebacker.
"Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Southern Miss, Carson-Newman and Jacksonville State are the ones that are most interested in me right now," Smith said. "I'd also like to get some looks from schools like Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia Tech."
Smith has been sitting on a Northwestern offer since the spring, and thinks he might be close to offers from Vanderbilt and Southern Miss. Last year's Vanderbilt roster included four Hoover alumni, and Smith would love to be the next one.
"I think Vanderbilt is real close to offering," Smith said. "They've been saying that they want me real strong, and the visit I took there before the end of the season went well."
With a 3.2 grade average and a 23 on the ACT, Smith recognizes the importance of the academic side of college.
"Once you don't have football any more, you've got to have something to fall back on," he said. "Going to Northwestern or Vanderbilt, you may not be making what NFL players are making, but you're making money that you can survive off of for life.
"Northwestern won a lot of games this year, and they played on ESPN. I like their program.
"Vanderbilt had a great season too. They didn't get to a bowl game the way they wanted to, but they've got some great players there. I played with Earl Bennett back in pee-wee football, and I'd love to get up there with him. And [redshirt freshman] Joel Caldwell played with me last year at Hoover."
Smith, who says he's not likely to decide until January, still hopes a few other offers might pop up between now and then.
"I'd love to play for Auburn," Smith said, although the Tigers don't seem interested at this point. "That's the school I've wanted to play for all my life. It would be a dream come true to get to play in the Iron Bowl against Alabama."