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HOOVER, Ala. -- Held annually at Buccaneer Field on the Hoover (Ala.) High campus, the 10th annual National Select 7-on-7 tournament was built up as a 32-team field littered with FBS-level quarterbacks.
By the time a champion was crowned Saturday afternoon, it was an under-the-radar signal caller who helped his team claim the championship trophy.
Connor Short helped lead the host school to a win in the final event of the summer circuit, and did so in convincing fashion as Hoover defeated Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian, 41-15.
The march to the title was fueled by a tandem that Hoover fans are very familiar with, as Short completed pass after pass to receiver Mike Powers. The duo connected for three touchdown passes in the championship game and it started with the opening drive of the contest.
"I have a lot of trust in Mike," Short said. "I know that he is going to be where he is supposed to be and when he is supposed to be there."
Powers, who is listed as 5-foot-8, hauled in scores of 11-, 40-, and 7-yards.
Hoover head coach Josh Niblett was quick to point out that his football players may not be prototypically sized, but the results speak for themselves.
"Great football players don't come in just one size," he said. "Undersized is not a word we use. We look at who can make plays for us and Mike is a very good football player."
Hoover opened the tournament by losing two of its first four games during pool play, but did not suffer a single setback over the final two days.
Niblett said that his team simply rose to the challenge.
"We didn't play like we were capable of playing that first day," he said. "We didn't have the right energy. I don't know (if) we were dead-legged or what but we didn't look good.
"I challenged them and they challenged each other and they rose to the occasion."
Powers added that he and his teammates learned they each must give maximum effort to win the tournament.
"We have to give 100-percent effort on every play," he said. "We have to win each rep or we are going to lose. We knew that but we had to learn it again that first day. We were a different team after that."
Following the victory in the title game, Short was happy to celebrate with teammates but said he was already looking forward to his senior season of football.
"We are learning how to win championships," Short said. "We won our last two tournaments coming into this one but then we came out slow Thursday. We came back as a group and got the job done today and that is what counts.
"Our goal is to win a state title this year and learning how to win is important."
In defeat, Evangel Christian coach Phillip Deas said that Hoover is always one of the most disciplined teams that his team faces with regularity.
"They are always great at fundamentals," he said. "Whether they have the superior athletes or just average athletes, they are always doing what is right.
"We have seen them at this event numerous times and we have played them in a real game up here, and the coaching that they get makes them the most fundamentally sound teams we ever see."
Over the last decade, these two teams have claimed seven championships at the National Select 7-on-7, with Hoover now leading all-time tally with four wins to Evangel's three.
"It is always a great feeling to win," Niblett said. "We don't measure our team just by the wins and losses but also in how they respond and how they can react to adversity and we got to see a lot of good things today.
"Our first day wasn't good. Our second day, the theme was to feed off each other and today was about an opportunity to win and the boys got it done out here."
The success was largely on the arm of Short.
"Our offense goes as Connor goes," Niblett said. "He has a savvy about him that his teammates feed off of. He is a coach's son, he is a gym rat, and he is a good kid."
Paired with his favorite receiver and a defense that played well when it needed to, Short, and his teammates, are now also champions.
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