HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — With the clock hitting zero at The Met Friday night, the Hoover Buccaneers defeated the Oak Mountain Eagles 62-14, improving to a 2-5 record.
This season has marked unfamiliar territory for the Bucs, who haven’t lost five or more games since 2007, when they had to forfeit four games under head coach Rush Propst due to AHSAA sanctions. They ended up finishing that season 6-6 with a loss to Vestavia in the third round of the playoffs.
Hoover’s matchups this year haven’t been close. Other than the wins over Oak Mountain, Spain Park and an eight-point loss to Oak Grove, the Bucs lost its other four games by double digits. This is the second year for Hoover head coach Wade Waldrop, and after going 11-2 last season, Waldrop believes he knows the reason why the team has struggled this season.
“It’s experience. We signed 18 football players off of last year’s football team. We had to replace 16 starters coming into this year, we’ve had a couple injuries, we’re playing a lot of sophomores, it’s experience. Friday night is a hard place to learn how to get experience. There’s a lot of our guys right now that’re gaining experience, should be getting that on Monday night, they’re not,” said Waldrop. “They’re having to learn under the lights at The Met, in Region 3, and that’s a very humbling place to gain experience. We’re focused on our effort, our toughness being better and our execution being better. The last couple weeks, we’ve practiced at a better rate, we’ve done thing a little bit better each week…”
Although things haven’t gone as planned for the Bucs, they can still sneak into the playoffs. With Tuscaloosa County, Chelsea and Thompson remaining on the schedule, if Hoover can manage to win two of its next three games, they will have a spot in the 7A AHSAA playoffs.
“Sneaking in, in, the reality is, last year we won the region, you’re playing somebody from north Alabama, then you’re a region opponent again in round two. In is in. The goal, as with every team, the same last year when we were sitting at 11-2, we lost our quarterback last year at this exact week and had to start a freshman quarterback last year. And had to work through all that, the same focus is the same focus, win and improve, set yourself up to where when the end of the season rolls around, you’re playing your best football,” Waldrop said.
Hoover’s history of successful teams was established early on. Rush Propst, who was the coach from 1999-2007, helped the team win five state championships during his tenure. Josh Niblett then took the torch from Propst and continued on that success, winning six state titles in his 14 seasons as head coach. Waldrop is now trying to establish his own success with the Bucs.
“One, we want to value hard work. We want to value hard things and tough things and you know, at this point, we faced adversity in this season. And when adversity has struck us, we have not responded in a way that a championship program and a championship team should respond. A year ago, you know, when we faced adversity, we fought and dug a little bit harder. Right now, we’re struggling to do that. You know that starts with me, it ends with me,” he said.
“But, it’s got to trickle down to our coaches and to our players and getting younger players who have not been under those lights to understand that. Again, you know, it’s part of the process. I would say this, Hoover’s a great program and it’s been on a very big stage for the last 20 years, it’ still on a big stage,” said Waldrop. “But this team is unique and different than any of the previous 20 teams. And anybody outside of the locker room doesn’t know that and I understand that. I would just say, these guys are who they are, we are who we are at this point in time. And we’ve got to do our very best to put ourselves in position to win Friday night and take care of business over the next couple of weeks.”
With this being an unprecedented season for the Bucs, this team still has a chance to continue the streak of 23-straight seasons with a playoff appearance. And although this team may not feature a player to the likes of a Robby Ashford, John Parker Wilson, Marlon Humphrey, Waldrop wants this season to remember for multiple reasons.
“Well, one I want to say we got the most out of this team. From where we started to where we are, we want to see growth and improvement. But we also want to see program development and program growth from where we were to where are at the end of the year, to set a foundation for returning maybe more players that have experience going into next year and the year after,” Waldrop said.
Hoover is on the road Friday for a matchup with Tuscaloosa County.