Oak Mountain falls to Hoover in tight contest

Published 11:24 pm Friday, September 11, 2015

Oak Mountain's Warren Shader hands off to Daniel Salchert in the Eagles' 17-14 loss to Hoover on Sept. 11 (Contributed / Barry Clemmons)

Oak Mountain’s Warren Shader hands off to Daniel Salchert in the Eagles’ 17-14 loss to Hoover on Sept. 11 (Contributed / Barry Clemmons)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – When the dust settled and the final second had ticked off the scoreboard, Oak Mountain found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard to a Hoover team that at this point has simply forgotten how to lose a close game, as the Eagles fell 17-14 to the visiting Bucs in a close, hard fought game that saw exceptional quarterback play from both teams.

Oak Mountain took the opening kick and maintained a drive out to around midfield before the drive stalled and the Eagles were forced to punt. On Hoover’s first possession, the Eagles held up well for two plays, forcing a third and 10 from the Oak Mountain 35. Hoover quarterback Christopher Vacarella was flushed out of the pocket, tucked the ball under his arm, and scampered 65 yards downfield, untouched, for the games first score, and just like that the Eagles trailed 7-0 in the early going.

On the very next Oak Mountain drive, on the very first play, Coleman Reeves took a handoff from quarterback Warren Shader and went right through the heart of the Hoover defense, breaking into the secondary and sprinting for a 55-yard gain before being brought down from behind by the Bucs secondary. A helpful pass interference call two plays later put the ball down around the goal line, where Reeves barreled in for the score, tying the game.

Vacarella converted another long third down with his legs. Whenever he felt pressure all night, he was able to elude the rush and make something happen with his speed more often than not. The Eagle defense held when it mattered most, deep in their own territory, and held Hoover to a field goal, and the Bucs took a 10-7 lead into the second quarter. After a back-and-forth second quarter that no scoring, Hoover took that slight three-point advantage into the half.

Oak Mountain head coach Cris Bell called a gutsy onside kick to start the second half, knowing his Eagles were going to have to create some magic on this night. It didn’t work, but Hoover missed a field goal on the drive, so there was no harm done.

Save for the Reeves run up the middle early in the game, Hoover effectively shut down Oak Mountain’s attempts to run the ball down the Bucs’ throats. In the second half, Shader and the Eagles took a different approach and started getting around the tackles. Shader is the shifty, savvy foil to Vacarella’s breakaway speed, and began to show just what he was capable of in the second half. In Oak Mountain’s misdirection, triple-option based offense, having a quarterback who can read a defense as well as Shader is imperative.

After the Hoover missed field goal, Oak Mountain got to work. A big third and long run by Shader and a nice pitch and catch in single coverage to wide out Reid Golson highlighted the drive, which ended with a four-yard touchdown dive from Reeves to give Oak Mountain a 14-10 lead.

Hoover’s Andrew Hawkins, who was a load to tackle all night, took the ball out to the 50 on the ensuing kickoff, and the Bucs used that excellent field position to eventually a Vacarella naked bootleg for an easy touchdown from the Eagle two yard line to reclaim the lead in what turned out to be the last points of the night at 17-14.

Hoover had multiple chances in the fourth quarter to extend its lead, but penalties continued to offset long, nice third down conversions, pushing the Bucs farther and farther backward. As the game dwindled down, Shader and the Eagles offense tried desperately to get a drive started, but couldn’t find any room to run. After holding Hoover late in the fourth quarter, Oak Mountain had one more shot at a win.

With 35 seconds left in the game and the ball at his own four-yard line, the Eagles took the field. Shader found free safety/ receiver Payton Youngblood for a couple of nice receptions. With one second left, from around midfield, Shader avoided the rush, stayed on his feet long enough to heave a ball deep down the right sideline, but it was picked off as time expired.

A somewhat dejected Bell after the game was proud of his teams’ effort.

“We certainly competed,” Bell said. “We have to clean up a few things, do a better job in spots. I thought our kids gave a great effort. Certainly Hoover is a heck of a football team. I wish our guys had a better football coach.”

Oak Mountain outgained Hoover on the night, racking up 343 yards compared to Hoover’s 319. Reeves led all rushers with 166 yards on 25 carries.

Oak Mountain falls to 0-3 with the loss.