AUBURN – Hoover running back Marcus Webb could not have scripted a better ending to his high school football career.
Despite earning the first Class 7A most valuable player honor Wednesday night in the Bucs’ 35-21 win over Prattville, there still remained a score that was unsettled.
Webb learned a thing or two about winning state championships from his older sister, 2013 Miss Basketball Marqu’es. With the Bucs nabbing their third straight title, the gridiron and hardwood Webbs are tied at three apiece. Marqu’es, currently a sophomore at Vanderbilt, won a pair of basketball titles at Hoover and earned a blue trophy in Class 4A as a sophomore with Brewbaker Tech.
So how do they break the deadlock to determine the family’s most decorated athlete?
“I don’t mind playing her in a game of one-on-one. I would have no mercy on her. She might have the height on me, but I’ll just shoot over her,” Marcus said.
First time on Plains: With the sixth head-to-head encounter between Hoover and Prattville, this was their first showdown in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The teams faced each other three times at Legion Field (2004, 2006 and 2008) and twice in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium (2009 and 2011). The series record now stands even at three wins apiece.
The defense rests: Prattville’s defense had made impressive strides throughout the playoffs, giving up a total of 24 points in their last two games. Hoover scored 28 in the first half, though, finding the end zone on 4 of 6 possessions.
“We knew we had to establish the running game early,” Hoover coach Josh Niblett said. “We wanted to play fast early. The biggest drive was the one where we scored right before the half.”
Star power: There was plenty of future college talent on display Wednesday. Six participants were on the Rivals.com preseason top 40 list of Alabama high school seniors. Hoover had three in the top 10 — linebacker Darrell Williams (No. 6), running back Bradrick Shaw (8), and defensive end Christian Bell (10) — plus receiver Justin Johnson (21). Williams is an Auburn commit, Bell has pledged to Alabama, while Shaw and Johnson are undecided.
Prattville had two players. Neither quarterback Keith Washington (No. 28) or offensive lineman Kenny Thomas (33) has finalized his commitment.
Knotts not too shabby: Prattville receiver Seth Knotts had an impressive showing, snaring five passes for 170 yards. Two receptions covered more than 50 yards, including an acrobatic 50-yarder to give Prattville its first score.
Despite closing his career with a loss, Knotts believes a new tradition of winning has begun at Prattville.
“When I came in as a sophomore, a whole lot of players didn’t really believe in Coach Anderson,” Knotts said. “I’m just so proud of how far we came and where he’s taken us. You will see us back here.”
Son surpasses father: Hoover coach Josh Niblett won his fifth state championship, breaking the trophy deadlock he had with his father. John Niblett captured four AISA titles — at South Montgomery Academy (1979), at Demopolis Academy (1990) and back-to-back with Glenwood in 1991-92.
The younger Niblett has won four championships at Hoover to go with a Class 3A crown in 2004 at Oneonta.
When it comes to bragging rights, the younger Niblett knows better.
“The biggest thing is that lots of coaches don’t get the chance to win a championship. I’m just grateful for the opportunity and the face our family has been blessed,” Josh Niblett said.