The #2 Hoover Bucs travel to play the #1 Thompson Warriors in a Class 7A, Region 3 showdown at Thompson High School Friday night. The winner will get the region title and some big time confidence going into the 2020 playoffs.
Hoover and Thompson are both 9-0 and 6-0 in the region. Both teams have played the other Region 3 playoff teams in Oak Mountain and Hewitt-Trussville. Hoover defeated Oak Mountain 42-7 while Thompson won 49-21. Against Hewitt-Trussville, Hoover won 29-28 and Thompson won 35-21. Thompson has won the last three games against Hoover.
Both teams come into the game with big time offenses. Hoover averages 40.3 points per game while Thompson averages 43.7 points per game. Look for both teams to put up some points in this game.
Hoover Bucs Head coach Josh Niblett has one of his best pass catching group since being at Hoover. "This receiving group reminds me of the teams of '12, '13, '14 where we were we made that great run of 44-2 of guys doing their job," said Niblett. "There wasn't just a one name guy that made all the catches. It was collectively everyone doing their job. One night, one guy might have seven catches and the next time we play he might only have two or three catches. Some nights they might have a punch of catches and yards then other games, they are asked to do other things. This group plays very unselfish. They play hard week in and week out and they all know what they bring to the table. They know what their strengths are and no what they have to get better at. I think our tight ends have also helped us. We are able to spread the ball around to a lot of different position groups as far as throwing the football. So when your balanced out of your run set, you can throw it and run it, that is something we haven't been able to do this in awhile but we have done it better now than we ever have."
Malik Thomas has 45 receptions for 702 yards and 10 touchdowns, RJ Hamilton has 40 receptions for 767 yards and seven touchdowns. Joseph Buffett has 19 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns and Isaac Lovoy has 12 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown. Tight ends Sky Niblett, Jabari Gaines and Keyvon Lavender get playing time.
Hoover Bucs quarterback Josh Lundy is having a solid season. "Quarterback has a lot more on their plate but we all 11 have to work together," said Niblett. "Josh has done a good job of making decisions. We are probably averaging eight or nine explosive plays a game and some of those have happened out of our run set and some out of our passing set. Josh has done a great job of making decisions and our receivers have done a great job of getting open. Our line has done a good job of protecting our quarterback. For the season, Lundy has completed 148-of-246 passing for 2,211 yards with 24 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Thompson has the best receiving group in the Class 7A, where Hoover has the best balance of the two offenses. Thompson Head coach Mark Freeman likes his group of receivers and believes this is his best group of receivers. "Collectively, this has to be the best group that I have every coached," said Freeman. "They are really good and they complement each other very well. We have good height and good speed. They all love each other. They are not selfish with each other. When we snap the ball, it can go several different places. They play hard and support each other, they are a great group. There are pretty much the same guy, very encouraging to each other. They have been been together, pull for each other and a fun group to coach."
JB Mitchell has 49 receptions for 798 yards and six touchdowns, Ryan Peppins has 32 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns. Tre Roberson has 35 receptions for 436 yards and five touchdowns and Sam Reynolds has 17 receptions on 300 yards and four touchdowns. Due to injury at running back, Reynolds has played running back while adding 266 yards on 47 carries on the ground.
The Thompson Warriors quarterback Connor Harrell is having an outstanding season. "Connor has been good with his feet to extend a play for our receivers to get open if their first look is not open," added Freeman. "We have made some good plays off of a broken play this season." Harrell has completed 156-of-211 passing for 2,567 yards with 31 touchdowns and only one interception.
The Bucs have a big group of running backs with experience. Senior Dylan Pauley has been the starter but junior Jaylen Taylor is having a big season. Taylor has 610 yards on only 71 carries for an 8.6 yards per carry along with nine touchdowns. With these two backs, Brian Porter, Ahamari Williams and DJ Black have carries and this is a very deep position for the Bucs.
For the Warriors, Nathan Crockett is back from injury. Crockett brings balance to the Warriors offense but has been out a few games this season. Crocket made his way back for injury against Oak Mountain last week. Brandon Franklin is out due to injury. Ahmari Bolden has been getting reps in games he played against Mountain Brook and Gadsden City.
Look for some points to be be scored this game. As good as these offenses can be, it will come down to which defense can make the big plays and get the stops at key times during the game.