All eyes were on the defense, and that's the way it should have been.
But Hoover (Ala.) High also brought a good offense to the National Select 7-on-7 tournament – one that they hosted yet again. After slow starts and plenty of tension along the way, the Bucs brought home the title.
The school had an up-and-down day one and ended up losing a pair of games. But the turning point may have been in a tough tussle against Sherman (Tex.). The one-possession game was back-and-fourth throughout, but the Bucs were able to go ahead with less than a minute to go.
With Hoover's best unit taking the field soon after, elite 2014 prospect Marlon Humphrey stepped in front of a pass to seal the win. The play was microcosmic of the game, as Humphrey baited the thrower in cover-2 before leaping above the throw to seal the deal with the interception just as it seemed like he was beat over-the-top.
From there, Hoover's entire team began to click. Quarterback Connor Short continued to connect with Mike Powers on offense and Humphrey paired with Devon Earl to form the best DB duo in the entire 32-team field.
Saturday began with the Bucs as the No. 11 overall seed, but the first round of games changed the entire landscape of the tournament. Top seed Lovejoy (Ga.) lost its first bout as did seeds two through seven with the exception of No. 4 Fayetteville (Ark.). Hoover, meanwhile, didn't allow more than 12 points until their third game before slamming the door on its final pair of opponents while other top teams tried to catch up.
The top seeds were all upset along the way by Spanish Fort (Ala.) and Evangel (La.). The two met in a classic Loser-bracket final that ended up going to overtime before the Louisiana representatives earned the right to face the undefeated Bucs.
Not only would it be tough to beat the host school once based on the roll Hoover's offense and defense was on – but Evangel would have had to beat the Bucs on consecutive occasions considering the tournament's double-elimination format.
While small Evangel QB Dakota Duron was the surprise of the three-day event with his precision passes all over the field despite a 5-foot-8 frame, the Hoover defense was again too much. The Bucs' offense also happened to click on the way to a 45-15 route.
Hoover saved its best for last and it worked on both sides of the ball.
Humphrey took home the defensive MVP award and it was well-deserved. The Alabama legacy, who also has a brother at Arkansas, was the best defensive back in attendance on a consistent basis to the point that QBs weren't throwing to the rising junior.
When they did, he stole the momentum just like he did on day one against the lone Texas representatives on campus – with a dominating leap that was as hard to predict just as the star-studded tournament was.