Spain Park rematch with Hoover set

Published 12:34 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2015

With Spain Park's three-point win over James Clemens on Nov. 13, the Jaguars have set up a rematch with Hoover for a shot at the 7A title. (File)

With Spain Park’s three-point win over James Clemens on Nov. 13, the Jaguars have set up a rematch with Hoover for a shot at the 7A title. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

HOOVER – And then there was one.

Going in to last Friday, there were four teams still alive in the football state playoffs. Three of those teams, Montevallo, Helena and Briarwood, were defeated by a combined total of 119-14. The fourth and final team, Spain Park, got past James Clemens, the No. 2 team in class 7A, in thrilling come-from-behind fashion to move on to the 7A state semifinals and set up a rematch with cross-town rival Hoover.

Hoover, the same team that had beaten Spain Park 13 times out of 13 tries before this season. Hoover, the same team that had not lost to an in-state opponent since 2011 before this season. Hoover, the same team that the Jaguars shut out 17-0 earlier this year, marking the first time the Jaguars had been shut out since 1991.

You couldn’t create a scenario this juicy if you tried. Let’s take a quick look.

Not only did Spain Park snap its losing streak to Hoover, it did so in dominating fashion. Perry Young and the Spain Park defense completely nullified the Buccaneers offensive attack back when the two teams met on Oct. 1, although Hoover shot themselves in the foot over and over again with fumbles and missed field goals. It was truly a coming-out party for this Spain Park team, which has played with a renewed confidence and swagger ever since.

The previously untouchable Bucs have shown their mortality this year, and lost two games in three weeks to in-state opponents for the first time since the Bucs dropped four in a row back in 1998. The Bucs are also scoring at an unusually low clip as well, and have averaged 27.6 points per game this season, the lowest since that 1998 season also.

However, Hoover has played the last four weeks like a completely different team than it did the first half of the season. After dropping its second game of the season to Vestavia Hills on Oct. 16 by a final of 20-13, the Bucs have won their last four games by a combined score of 138-21, and shut out Vestavia in the second round of the playoffs 24-0. This team has a different feel, a different edge, than that team that got shut out by Spain Park did.

All Spain Park has done, by contrast, is keep winning. While the Jaguars had a six-game stretch from mid September to early November where they never won a game by less than 10 points, they have also won three games this season by three points or less. When the chips are down and it’s time to make a play, this team just keeps finding a way to win. The defense has been playing incredible football this season, holding four opponents scoreless and giving up an average of just 10 points per contest.

Honestly, what happens this Friday is anyone’s guess. Last time Spain Park was obviously the better team, but that had as much to do with Hoover’s mistakes as it did Spain Park’s offensive prowess. The Jaguars’ two-headed running combination of Larry Wooden and Wade Streeter rushed for 71 and 50 yards on that game on a combined 38 carries. Wooden managed just 3.7 yards per touch while Streeter was held to 2.3. Joey Beatty, the Jaguars’ steady game manager, completed just 12 passes in the game for 127 yards, a score and a pick. Although a 41-yard touchdown strike to Will Greene late in the fourth effectively sealed the deal in that game.

There’s no prediction to be made here. It’s a pick ‘em. An argument can be made and raised for both sides. Hoover has the revenge angle going for it while Spain Park is out to prove the first meeting wasn’t a fluke. Whatever happens this Friday night, the outcome will be memorable.