Hoover dethrones Oak Mtn.

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oak Mountain’s run at a third-consecutive state championship is over after a 2-0 defeat at Hoover Tuesday.

Hoover took an early lead in the 13th minute of play as Nick Bibb buried a pass from Robert Mann into the Oak Mountain net. With help from an own goal by the Eagles a few minutes later, the Bucs put themselves in position for a Class 6A state championship run this weekend in Huntsville.

Down 2-0, Oak Mountain (24-3-1) did not consider itself out of the game.

“You can’t predict everything that’s going to happen in a game. We made two mistakes and they scored two goals early in the game,” Oak Mountain head coach Justin Pratt said. “The own goal broke our spirits a little bit, but you just have to regroup. Once we regrouped, we had plenty of chances. We had four clear cut chances right in front of the net and couldn’t put them away.”

Seven minutes before halftime, Oak Mountain’s offense took an unexpected blow, as star forward Chandler Hoffman was sidelined with a pulled quad.

“(Hoover’s) whole game strategy is based around Chandler, and when he’s off the field it’s a different story,” senior Mason Lavallet said.

With Hoffman out, Hoover continued to pressure on defense, taking scoring opportunities away from the Eagles. The loss of the star forward left one less target for midfield captain Stefan Vaziri.

“You look up and there’s no one there, so you have to take it yourself. There wasn’t much movement up top with Chandler being out and Mason up there by himself. You could tell we needed him up there,” Vaziri said. “I’m not going to blame the whole game on Chandler not being out there, but it’s definitely a big factor when you’ve relied on him the past three years for goals.”

Hoffman watched in a chair next to the bench as his team worked to rally in the second half, but opportunities by Lavallet, Andres Aristizabal, John Imwalle and others were either off the mark or blocked. Trey Anderson had three saves in the Eagles’ net. Hoffman couldn’t bare to sit and watch his high school career come to an end.

“I’m kind of hoping to wake up from the nightmare. I wish we could run this game back and do it over, but that’s how life goes. Sometimes things aren’t going to go your way,” Hoffmand said. “I’m thankful to have had the career I’ve had. I think our whole team should hold our head up high for how we’ve played over the past four years.”

Hoover (19-5-3), the only team to beat Oak Mountain this year, advances to meet Mountain Brook in the semifinal in Huntsville on Friday.