Auburn, Ala.—With two consecutive losses in the Super Six, the Hoover Bucs came into Friday night’s game against Opelika with a chip on their shoulder and Coach Josh Niblett’s team played that way. Playing aggressive early and jumping on the Bulldogs in front of a huge pro-Opelika crowd, Hoover cruised to a 31-0 win to complete a perfect 15-0 season and win the 6A title.
“I don’t think you understand what we went through the last two years,” Niblett said. “These guys made no bones about it in January. The number one goal is to win a state championship. Then we wanted to talk about doing something a little bit better than that and let’s go greatness.”
With Opelika’s pass rush creating some early problems for the Hoover offense, the Bucs turned to the running game and speedy Calen Campbell to get the job done. A player that has gotten stronger as the season has gone along, he proved to be the difference maker Friday night for Hoover.
Carrying the ball 30 times for 191 yards and three touchdowns, Campbell broke the Super Six record for carries and yardage and tied the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game. Campbell said while he’s been getting stronger as the season has gone along, the key to his play this year and in the championship game was his offensive line.
“This is just everything we wanted,” Campbell said. “We knew that on defense Opelika was going to be a physical bunch and kudos to them. I took a lot of hits and I’m pretty sure our receivers took a lot of hits and Connor Short took a lot of hits. This is just everything we planned, not from the start of the season but since January when we started working out. It’s everything we expected.
“I have absolutely gotten stronger, when my offensive line got stronger,” he added. “I go as they go. They come in every day and watch film and they go to work for me. They work for everybody on offense. The anchor of a good offense is a good offensive line.”
The game started out as a defensive struggle with both teams trying to settle into the game in front of a crowd estimated at nearly 30,000. Late in the first quarter the Campbell show got underway and it came with the big play. Taking over on its own 25, Hoover got an 11-yard pass from Short to Michael Powers on the first play. On the second play of the series Campbell took the handoff and broke through the right side of the line. Racing through the Opelika secondary, he put the Bucs on the board with a 64-yard run.
Things went from bad to worse for Opelika moments later when quarterback Matthew Christian threw to Marlon Humphrey’s side. That proved to be a mistake as the junior cornerback took the ball away from the receiver and raced to the three-yard line before being knocked out of bounds. Campbell punched it in for the touchdown on the first play and the rout was on.
A short missed field goal late in the first half cost Opelika the chance to get some momentum and Hoover would make the Bulldogs pay in the final 24 minutes. Driving 57 yards to the Opelika four on its first possession of the second half, Hoover kicked a 22-yard field goal for the 17-0 lead.
With Hoover’s defense controlling things at the line of scrimmage the offense finished off Opelika with two more scores in the fourth quarter. The first came on a Short touchdown pass to Cooper Carden with Campbell racing in from 45 yards out for the final margin of 31-0.
The one bright spot for Opelika was the running of senior tailback Calvin Bryant. Finishing with 85 yards on 19 carries, he carried the load for an offense that was held to just 181 total yards in the shutout loss.