MONTGOMERY – Hoover High School and Central-Phenix City High School have met on the football field only twice in the two schools’ storied history, Friday night’s battle at the AHSAA Kickoff Classic may be kicking off the season for both teams, but it seems more like a Super 7 clash than a season opener. Central won the Red Devils’ first state title since 1993 last season with a 52-7 win over Thompson in the Class 7A state finals at Auburn. Hoover beat Thompson in the regular season 45-26 to win the Region 3 title but lost in the playoffs to the Warriors 31-28 which stopped the Bucs just short of the Super 7 finals. Hoover Coach Josh Niblett and Central Coach Jamey DuBose both have enjoyed tremendous success as head coaches. Niblett has coached the Bucs to six state titles, including the 2017 and 2016 7A crowns, and has had three runner-up finishes. DuBose coached Prattville to two state crowns in one runner-up finish before leaving for Florence and then Central. Ironically both Central and Hoover have won 54 games over the last five seasons. The Bucs are 54-14 with three state crowns and Central is 54-9 with one state title and three semifinal appearances. The two teams will be meeting for just the third time Friday night. The Bucs are 2-0 in the series with a 21-14 first-round playoff win in 1978 and 23-7 victory in the Champions Challenge (now the Kickoff Classic) in 2016. Friday’s game is being produced by WOTM/Broadway Communications and televised over brand-new the AHSAA TV Network managed by the NFHS Network. Executive producer Vince Earley of WOTM has quickly put together a network utilizing the presence on a large number of cable affiliates across the state as well as through the Alabama Cable Network’s channel 80 on Charter Cable. The production will be live-streamed also be live-streamed over the NFHS Network. Earley announced the addition of CTV Beam, which services East Alabama including Phenix City, to the WOTM/AHSAA family of cable affiliates Wednesday. The Central-Hoover game features two teams ranked in the Top 25 nationally by The Sporting News and pits the Alabama Sportswriters Association pre-season No. 1 and No. 2-ranked Class 7A teams. Both teams’ quarterbacks who are already committed – Tucker Melton of Central plans graduate early and then enroll at Bowling Green. He passed for over 1,000 yards last season as the Red Devils’ back up. Robby Ashford of Hoover, who had over 3,000 total yards as a junior, has committed to Ole Miss. Other top Bucs include receiver Dylan Pauley and lineman David Bodden on offense and defensive standouts Jeptha Kilgore, Cordey Martin, Marcus Williams and Kory Chapman. “This football season the goals have not changed for Central football,” said DuBose. “Every year it is win the region, win the South and win the State Championship. Every year it is a new team and we have to restart the process.” Key returners on offense are Melton, Eddie Williams and Peter Jakes at wide receiver, Javion Cohen and Joshua Jones on the offensive line and running back Joseph McKay. Defensively, Mike Harris is a returning starter in the secondary. Linebackers Jadon Richardson and Phillip Ramsey are key leaders along with Vontavious Maddox on the defensive front. Hoover’s Niblett said the Bucs’ goals are also the same as always. “We want to be the best that we can be. That requires a daily commitment.” Both agree that two great teams will be on display Friday. Which one will be the best? That’s a question both teams are looking forward to finding out.