By David Knox, Sports Editor
AUBURN – Hoover High School’s last defensive series of the Super 7 Class 7A state championship game Wednesday night was perhaps the best series of the 2016 season.
Three straight sacks on second, third and fourth down left defending state champion McGill-Toolen Catholic (13-1) some 36 yards shy of a first down and closed the final chapter on the Bucs’ 17-7 victory and the 12th state title in school history.
The Super 7 Championships continue Thursday at Jordan-Hare Stadium with defending state champion Piedmont (14-0) facing Mobile Christian (13-1) in the 3A title game at 11 a.m., followed by defending state champion Maplesville (13-0) vs. Pickens County (11-3) in the 1A finals at 3 p.m. Beauregard (12-1) and Wenonah (11-2) close out Thursday’s schedule with the 5A finals at 7 p.m. All games are being televised live over the Raycom Media Network, WBRC’s Bounce TV channel in Birmingham.
Led by 2016 7A Championship Game MVP Kholbe Coleman, Hoover (12-2) finished the night with nine sacks and 82 lost yards for the Yellow Jackets’ talented offense. Coleman finished with eight tackles, one sack for a 15-yard loss and 3.5 tackles resulting in 23 negative McGill-Toolen yards. Coach Caleb Ross’s Jackets finished with minus-43 yards rushing on the night. Quarterback Bubba Thompson was 26-of-39 passing for 280 yards but finished with a negative 58 yards rushing on 16 carries.
The Hoover offense was solid – building a first-half 10-0 lead on junior place-kicker Barret Pickering’s 42-yard field goal late in the first quarter and C.J. Sturdivant’s 2-yard TD run midway through the second period. The kick was the 19th field goal of the season for Pickering, a Hoover school record.
Sturdivant, who finished with a game-high 96 yards rushing on 16 carries, dashed 37 yards with 8:50 left in the third quarter for his second touchdown of the night to give Hoover a 17-0 lead.
McGill-Toolen clawed back, however. Thompson connected with Jalen Tolbert with 4:13 remaining for a 30-yard TD pass to cap a 10-play, 80-yard march. Tolbert finished with four catches for 60 yards. Hoover got the onside kick, and then turned to its defense to seal the win.
Hoover defensive end Christon Taylor added three sacks and six tackles and Ben Abercrombie had nine stops. Jayden Jordan also had a key interception.
McGill-Toolen, which saw its 22-game winning streak come to an end, got a strong defensive effort Carlton Martial. The linebacker had 11 solo tackles and six assists for 17 total stops. Receiver Trey Roberson also had six catches for 78 yards, and Larry Rembert, five catches for 51 yards.
Hoover has won 10 state titles in the past 16 seasons.