The Hoover Bucs will face North Gwinnett in the Corky Kell Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia Saturday late afternoon. The two teams have never met and it is the first time a team outside of Georgia has ever been invited to play in the classic.
Hoover is coming off an 11-2 season and want to get back to championship football. "We had a good fall camp and ready to get after it," said Bucs head coach Josh Niblett. "We have some great competition and as coaches were trying to develop our guys from an individual standpoint, to a group standpoint and to a team standpoint so when the game setting rolls around we just try to compliment each other and understand what we are doing. We are locked in and focused. They feel like they have something to prove. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium."
On offense, quarterback Bennett Meredith will lead the way. The senior quarterback transferred in from Spain Park in which he threw for over 3,000 yards passing for the Jags. "He is just a leader and really understands the game," added Niblett. "He is a film junky, gym rat, and he is highly competitive. He is everything you want out of a quarterback. He can make every throw, but he is still working to take his craft to another level. I think our kids respect him as a leader. We need him to play well. Our offense goes through him." Evan Reeder will be the backup and has played varsity games his last three years.
At receiver, RJ Hamilton and Cotton Peters are key weapons for the Bucs in the passing game. Hamilton as been the Bucs leading receiver his freshman and sophomore seasons. Peters had a big season last year and looks to improve on his skills. "Cotton gets it. He really wants to be good on what he does," said Niblett. "He has worked is tail off in the offseason and one of our strongest guys pound for pound. He can run, can run great routes and has great hands. He is a team guy that works hard everyday and will be huge for our offense. Cai Mayowa, KJ Law, Lamarion Mccammon, Freddie Dunson and Jordan Woolen will get playing time.
At tight end is Sky Niblett and Jabari Gaines. Both can block and both have great hands that will be used in the passing side of the offense. At times, they will be in the game together to give a defense different looks. Drew Gerstenburg will bring depth to that position.
The Bucs will have a stable of running backs to pick from. Ahamari Williams will get that first shot. "Ahamari is working hard on his flexibility and endurance," said Niblett. "He is such a strong player and getting him more flexible. He has worked hard in the weight room. He is such a strong player and plays that way."
The offensive line has plenty of experience and talent. Houston Vessey, AJ Franklin, Ethan Hubbard, Jordan Washington lead the way for the Bucs. Last season injuries hurt the Bucs offense to the offensive line and depth at this position will be key.
The Bucs defense has a lot of talent and looking to be more aggressive on getting to the quarterback. New defensive coordinator Chad Merrill makes the move from Vestavia Hills to Hoover. Chad McGehee moved on to be the new head coach at 7A James Clemens. The Bucs defensive box in going to be real good along with a solid secondary.
The defensive is one of the best in the state. Markus Clark, Terrell Jones and Corey Warren can get plug a hole or get to the quarterback with the best of them. Clark is a verbal commitment to Coastal Carolina and is the key piece to the defense. Junior Andrew Parrish can plug a hole and is one of the best inside guys. With him is junior Chaleb Powell, another run stopper. Jordan Norman is key off the edge. Add in Michael Nixon and Micah Hampton that gives the Bucs two solid groups on the defensive line.
At linebacker, DJ Estes, Jones, Bradley Shaw will be key guys for the Bucs defense. Defensive backs Jay Avery, Jeremy Cook, Dale Miller, RJ Brackett, Jacob Finley, Paul Thompson and DJ Estes are very good.
Special teams will be in good hands with kicker/punter Peyton Argent. Carter Milliron is the long snapper for the Bucs.
North Gwinnett has head coach Bill Stewart leading the Bulldogs. Since 2017, Stewart is 44-10 with three region titles and a state championship to his coaching record. Last season, the Bulldogs finished 8-4 and were eliminated in the Round of 16 by West Forsyth, Georgia.
The Bulldogs will return eight offensive starters but only a few returning players on defense. Junior linebacker Grant Godfrey and defensive lineman Kayden McDonald return and a very talented. Junior quarterback Ethan Washington is a very mobile quarterback that will put pressure on the Bucs defense. Running back Brinston Williams and Marcus McFarlane will lead the Bulldogs run game.
What a game to start the 2021 season.