Buc Saturday Season Openers
By Wayne Wood
When the 2018 Hoover Bucs Football Team opens the season on Saturday-August 25th at 11:00 am vs. Pinson Valley at the Hoover Met, it will follow a periodic trend of Saturday season openers since 2000. Another game that day at the Met will be Hewitt-Trussville vs. Cedar Grove, Georgia. Within the last 2 decades, the Bucs have opened every season with a stout opponent and here are a few which were held on a Saturday.
On Saturday-September 2, 2000 at Legion Field in Birmingham with a noon kickoff, the Bucs opened the season playing the Jess Lanier Tigers (now Bessemer City). It was natural grass then and was considered a home game for Hoover thus they wore black jerseys on that hot day. The Bucs had played Jess Lanier for several years in the opener and many of those contests were very competitive and the 3 most recent were proof of that. In 1997, the Bucs won 13-12 in two overtimes. In 1998, the Tigers won 26-20 and again in 1999 by a score of 30-29. However, the Bucs won big this day by a score of 52-6 and ironically came back to Legion Field 3 months later in early December for the state title game where they beat Daphne 28-7.
Three years later in 2004 on a Saturday 28th, the Bucs opened their season on Daphne’s field. It was a noon kickoff which was broadcast locally in the Mobile area. The Bucs and the Trojans had met 3 times this decade only in Birmingham for the state title. As mentioned earlier, the Bucs won 28-7 in 2000 but lost 48-21 to Daphne the next year in 2001. However, the Bucs won 22-17 in 2003 so this 2004 game was almost considered back to back although both teams had graduated several stars from the previous year.
It was a typical coastal region, hot, humid day on the natural turf. The Trojans wore their home purple jerseys & purple pants which were obviously hotter the Bucs’ white uniforms. The game was close in the 1st quarter but the Bucs made several big plays and led big at the half.
The last part of halftime was delayed because of lightning and rain but eventually, the Bucs resumed their strong play in the 3rd quarter and coasted to a 33-13 win. About 3 weeks later, Hurricane Ivan hit the coastal region and Alabama high school games were backed up a week into the season. However, the early win helped propel the Bucs to a 15-0 record and another state title.
In 2005, Buccaneer Stadium on the Hoover High campus was the scene of perhaps the biggest athletic opening event in its history. ESPN’s major sports network was there to broadcast the Saturday-August noon kickoff between the Bucs and Nease High (from near Jacksonville, Florida). Nease was led by star QB Tim Tebow (who would later go on to win a Heisman Trophy and the national championship for the Florida Gators before becoming a pro player & TV commentator). ESPN was also doing a series on Tebow for the season. Nease had several other college prospects as did Hoover. Of course, MTV was in the early stages on their series Two-A-Days on the Bucs season which would air nationally later in 2006.
The Bucs jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter but Tebow would lead his Panther team to a lead at halftime. It was back and forth in the 2nd half and was tied 29-29 in the 4th quarter. Perhaps it might have been Hoover’s depth on the extremely hot day and the fact that the central Alabama thick humidity, aided by the nearby Cahaba River, contributed to the fatigue for the Florida boys from the Atlantic Ocean coastal breeze region. At any rate, the Bucs pulled away for a 50-29. Later, both teams went on to win their respective state titles that year.
In 2006, the Bucs traveled to Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl for the Kickoff Classic for a Saturday night-August 26th kickoff and soundly beat UMS/Wright of Mobile. The next week, the Bucs flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a Friday night nationally televised game on Fox Sports Network at Union High. The Bucs soundly beat the Redskins 34-7.
In 2007, the Bucs flew to Cincinnati, Ohio to participate in the nationally respected Kirk Herbstreit Classic in which local area Ohio teams played teams from across the nation. The games were held in different venues of the city and the Bucs were scheduled to play the Colerain Cardinals at the University of Cincinnati campus stadium for a Saturday-September 1 game which kicked off after 2:00 pm. Though not quite as hot as the South, it was still hot on the artificial surface. It was a competitive game with the teams swapping leads throughout. It was tied 17-17 with the Bucs inside Colerain’s 5-yard line with a few seconds left in regulation. However, poor clock management on the Bucs part killed a golden opportunity and the game went into overtime. Colerain won 20-17 in that OT.
In 2010, the Bucs traveled to South Carolina to play the first of a doubleheader held at Rock Hill Stadium at noon on Saturday-August 28th and was broadcast on ESPN. The Bucs beat Byrnes 14-0. Byrnes went on to win their 2nd straight South Carolina state title later that year while the Bucs barely lost the state title 7-6 to Daphne at Auburn.
On Saturday-August 27, 2011, the Bucs played at Buccaneer Stadium in the second game of a doubleheader held on campus. They beat powerfully big, strong & fast South Panola-the defending state champ from Mississippi by a score of 24-13. The first game that day was Prattville vs. St. Thomas Aquinas from near Miami, Florida. The Florida boys won 34-31. Later that year in the state title game at Tuscaloosa, Hoover met Prattville with the Lions barely winning 35-34. The next year in 2012, the Bucs traveled to Batesville, Mississippi to play South Panola on a Friday night and won 35-10 propelling them to a state title later while South Panola also won their state title that year.
On Saturday-August 23, 2014 at Buccaneer Stadium, the Bucs were scheduled to play a noon kickoff game on ESPN against powerful Miami-Central. The Bucs squandered some golden scoring opportunities early in the game which could’ve added to their lead. However, the visitors from Florida took the lead before the Bucs before came back to tie it 21-21. Yet Miami-Central drove the length of the field to kick what was the winning field goal beating the Bucs 24-21. Both teams went on to win their respective state titles later that year.
On a Saturday night of August 22, 2015, the Bucs traveled to Middle Tennessee State University to play the second half of a doubleheader on campus. They played local Oakland High and won 24-6.
The past two years, the Bucs opened the season on the road playing on Friday nights. In 2016, they flew to Dallas, Texas to play Allen High (the largest high school in the state which is more than twice the size of Hoover High). The home Eagles won 25-7 in an August 26th game which was closer than the final score might indicate. On Friday-August 25th, 2017, the Bucs bussed to Georgia to play Grayson (whom they lost to at home in 2016). The Bucs had their chances late in the game yet still lost 35-26.
Which brings us to the 2018 Saturday opener at Hoover Met vs. Pinson Valley (from the northern part of Jefferson County). It is the first time the teams have ever met. The Indians were undefeated in a state title run in 2017 and are full of confidence going into this season led by star QB Bo Nix. It begins another challenging season schedule for the Bucs. However, it is something the Hoover Buc Football Team is quite accustomed to.