2022: Gulf Coast Media's year in review - Sports

State titles, all-state recognition and game-winning plays

By Cole McNanna
Sports Editor
cole@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 12/29/22

The 2022 sports calendar was filled with state championships, all-state recognition and game-winning plays in the final seconds for Baldwin County teams. The county was on display to the entire nation …

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2022: Gulf Coast Media's year in review - Sports

State titles, all-state recognition and game-winning plays

Posted

The 2022 sports calendar was filled with state championships, all-state recognition and game-winning plays in the final seconds for Baldwin County teams.

The county was on display to the entire nation and world between collegiate national championships and the world powerlifting championships where some local student-athletes also garnered attention from nationwide media outlets.

Eight high school teams won state titles and four more took home state runner-up trophies in addition to some individual championships to serve as only some of the achievements marked against the best of the best.

It has been an honor to chronicle the sports happenings in the area and Gulf Coast Media looks forward to the big moments 2023 has in store as well. Until then, staff members collected their top stories of the year to be featured in this year in review. 

Bayside Academy's 21st consecutive title highlights Baldwin County's state champions

Out of the eight state championship teams that hailed from Baldwin County this year, Bayside Academy extended a national record when its volleyball team won its 21st straight state championship this fall.

It also served as the Admirals' 31st state title overall, which extended another national record, and still marks the only AHSAA program to win state titles all the years they played in Class 3A (10), Class 4A (2), Class 5A (2) and now Class 6A.

Another monumental win came on the wrestling mats where the Daphne Lady Trojans grabbed their second straight state championship in the sports' first two years before becoming sanctioned by the AHSAA for this season.

Kalyse Hill (134 pounds), Sage Rosario (154 pounds) and Kaylee Holder (167 pounds) all claimed individual titles to help Daphne win state as a team and Baldwin County's Tamara Reed (237-pound division) was another individual state champion.

In the spring, both Bayside Academy outdoor track teams won their respective team championships and the boys' soccer team also represented the Admirals as state champs. The Daphne boys' soccer team returned home with a Blue Map trophy of their own where Bayshore Christian and Orange Beach repeated as baseball and softball champions, respectively.

This fall, Bayshore Christian's boys' cross country team returned as champions before Fairhope's Lena Amare, Bayside Academy's Elizabeth Chen and Gulf Shores' Murray Reed claimed individual state titles at the swimming and diving state championships this winter.

Ten Baldwin County football players named all-stars

Although there were a plethora of talented players in the county, 10 were selected to and played in all-star games between eight in the AHSAA North-South Classic and one each in the Alabama-Mississippi Classic and the AISA All-Star Game.

In addition, 18 student-athletes were recognized by the Alabama Sports Writers Association on all-state football teams to further underscore the football hotbed that is Baldwin County.

The AHSAA all-stars included Foley's Cameron Schultz and AJ Prim, Spanish Fort's Jacob Godfrey and Yorell Williams, Orange Beach's Chris Pearson, Baldwin County's DJ Jackson and Daphne's Stephon Blackshear. Foley's Harrison Knight represented the Lions in the Alabama-Mississippi Classic and Snook Christian's Philip Butts was the Eagles' first AISA all-star.

Nationwide recognition for game-winning play, gameday setup

Nolan Phillips arguably made the play of the year in Week 1 when he returned an interception for a touchdown as time expired in regulation to give the Fairhope Pirates a walk-off win over the Spanish Fort Toros, 34-28.

Of course, Gulf Coast Media was there and captured the game-ending play which was eventually reshared by a national high school sports platform in MaxPreps, including their 1.1 million followers on Instagram.

Also boasting 1 million followers, College GameDay's Instagram account reshared a video of Orange Beach students' hand at recreating the setup that tours the country to find the biggest college football game of the week.

Local athletes cement college commitments

As previously stated, there is no shortage of standout athletes in Baldwin County and there were a handful of big recruits that signed National Letters of Intent in 2022.

A sampling of Division I signees included Foley's Ty Roper to Alabama football and Kati Anderson to North Alabama beach volleyball, Bayside Academy's Jake DeValk to South Alabama baseball and Josh Gunther to Wake Forest baseball and Bayshore Christian's John Malone to Samford baseball.

St. Michael Catholic's Tia Acker (track) as well as Spanish Fort's Kate Miller (cross country) both signed with South Alabama and Bailey Hope, also from Spanish Fort, signed with Louisiana-Monroe beach volleyball.

Also on the football field, Chris Pearson from Orange Beach (Houston) and Caden Creel from Fairhope (Jacksonville State) penned their pledges to college programs.

Three teams host playoff games, Gulf Shores records first postseason win at home

When the football regular season came to an end, seven Baldwin County teams had clinched a playoff berth where three earned a top-two spot in their region to host a first-round postseason game.

The Foley Lions won Class 7A Region 1 for the first time since 2007 and both island teams in the Gulf Shores Dolphins (Class 5A) and Orange Beach Makos (Class 4A) registered runner-up finishes. The Fairhope Pirates (Class 7A), Spanish Fort Toros (Class 6A), Bayside Academy Admirals (Class 4A) and Snook Christian Eagles (AISA Class 1A) were the other Baldwin County teams to earn a playoff trip in 2022.

Gulf Shores hosted its first-ever playoff game at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium and won in emphatic fashion before earning a second-round win on the road. The Dolphins returned for their first appearance in the state quarterfinal but found the end of the road there although many alumni think the turnaround is only taking off.

From Russia to Orange Beach, International Powerlifting World Championship moved to Gulf Coast

Originally slated to take place in Russia prior to the country's invasion of Ukraine, the International Powerlifting League (IPL) moved the competition to the Orange Beach Event Center on short notice at the beginning of October.

Of course, it helped that the venue hosted IPL's Drug Tested North American Championships in 2021 and is set to host the United States Powerlifting Association's National Championships July 19-23, 2023.

Powerlifters representing United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Aruba, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile and Kazakhstan battled for top spots and worked to set 26 world records on the first day of competition.

Honorable Mentions

Some other big stories that stood out from 2022 included Baldwin County High School alumna McKenzie Bryant becoming Troy football's first female student assistant coach where she specialized with the inside linebackers, the NCAA beach volleyball championship setting another attendance record in the seventh year of hosting it in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach connections leading to the championship-winning fish from the Blue Marlin Grand Championship being donated back to the community through the E&E Dantin Foundation.

On the football field, current St. Michael head football coach Philip Rivers was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, as well as the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame in his new coaching town of Fairhope. 

For more sports coverage around the clock, follow Gulf Coast Media Sports on social media (@GCMSportsAL). Thank you, the readers, for following along in 2022, stay tuned for a few highlights of what is to come in 2023.

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