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TCHS set to tangle with No. 1 Hoover


Tuscaloosa County quarterback Tyler Gates and the Wildcats can win the Class 6A, Region 5 title win an upset win against top-ranked Hoover. (Photo by Kelly Lambert)


With two games left to play in the 2011 season, the Tuscaloosa County High Wildcats were fighting for a playoff berth, which they eventually clinched.

Now, the Wildcats are one game away from clinching a Class 5A Region 5 championship in tonight’s home game against the Hoover Buccaneers, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A.

The difference in the two teams is minute, but one that sparked a strong improvement.

"We have the same guys this year, they’re just a year older," TCHS coach Lee Gibson said.

As the Wildcats have prepared for the winner-take-all matchup, a great deal of attention has turned to the opponent — the regional, statewide and national powerhouse Buccaneers.

"I’m really about tired of people telling me this game is about playing Hoover," Gibson said. "We’re in this game, too."

Gibson has been preaching that attitude to his team for longer than just the duration of the football season.

"It’s not about them, it’s about us," Gibson said. "That’s what we’ve stressed since January "Not once have we talked about another team. The only thing you can control is yourself and what you do, how you get better."

Gibson is confident his team is committed to the philosophy and will not waiver from it tonight.

"We’re 7-1, so I think they’ve done well with it," Gibson said.

However, the prize, not the opponent standing in the way, makes the game more than just another Friday night for the Wildcats.

"They know it’s the biggest game of the year, because it’s the region championship," Gibson said. "It’s been their No. 1 goal."

Hoover may be forced to go after Tuscaloosa County’s No. 1 goal without their No. 1 quarterback, as starter Connor Short has been battling an injury this week.

Whether Short plays or not is of no concern to Gibson.

"To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it," he said. "They didn’t change what they do offensively. Those guys have been in that system for several years now. They’re a well-oiled machine."

A new quarterback could provide opportunities for defensive backs Jimmie Maddox, Kade Livingston and Stephen Webb to get interceptions.

Another nonfactor for Gibson is who the teams have played thus far.

Both teams are undefeated in region play, with Hoover undefeated on the season. Hoover found wins over Vestavia Hills and South Panola (Miss.), while the Wildcats suffered a season-opening 10-7 loss to the undefeated Mountain Brook Spartans.

"We play the same guys they do (in the region," Gibson said.