The debate all season at Hoover (Ala.) High has been consistent: Was the offense as good as the defense?
No one figured special teams would be its undoing.
Hoover, No. 6 in the RivalsHigh Top 100, fell to No. 31 Daphne (Ala.) High in the Class 6A state final, 7-6, after it failed to convert two big kicks.
Larson Real, an all-state kicker in 2009, had an extra point that sail wide in the first quarter and had a bad snap hurt his chances on a potential go-ahead 22-yard field goal with 1:15 left.
"Larsen knows how I feel about him," Hoover coach Josh Niblett told the Birmingham Daily News. "My biggest thing is he's a great kicker. He does a great job, but tonight just wasn't our night. We had some opportunities where it shouldn't even have come down to that."
Hoover had three shots from the 1-yard line and a potential go-ahead score called back by a penalty before its late failed attempt.
"One play doesn't lose a game for you," Niblett said. "One play can win a game for you. We got a ball on the 1-yard line and we've got to punch that in. We've got to score from the 1."
The loss will cost Hoover (14-1), a Top 10 team all season, dearly.
The victory, meanwhile will catapult Daphne up the rankings, perhaps into the Top 20.
Daphne head coach Glenn Vickery wasn't concerned about that. He was still busy trying to figure out how his team held Hoover to just a single score.
"If I had thought we could hold them to six points, I would be filthy rich," Vickery told AuburnSports.com. "We knew Hoover was a well-balanced team. We knew they were the kind of team that could throw several things at you offensively. They have good running backs and great receivers. We knew defensively, we had to play a more balanced game.
"We're just happy to win by one and we will take it. Their offense is so good, but we did not envision six points."
RivalsHigh take: Hoover has been one of the teams that has won because it did the little things right all season. It was not a team that jumped off the page with flash. It was all substance. On this evening, some of those things did not go the way of the Bucs. Penalties, missed opportunities and the basics on special teams were the undoing of what could have been a special season. Adding to the defeat was a very good Daphne team that did not come out of nowhere for the win. Both teams had gone through the best competition in Alabama and were equally deserving of the title. A very good football game was played and a very good football team won - and lost.