SPANISH FORT — Desmond Thomas took a 3rd-down run up the middle and had his momentum stopped after only a few yards. However, he regained his balance and took off for the end zone on a 64-yard …
SPANISH FORT — Desmond Thomas took a 3rd-down run up the middle and had his momentum stopped after only a few yards. However, he regained his balance and took off for the end zone on a 64-yard touchdown that gave the Fairhope Pirates a 17-14 lead over the Spanish Fort Toros with only 4:08 left in regulation.
“I had seen the end bend down so I just bounced it out then I felt a little tug but I just had to keep going,” Thomas said before noting he then shifted into second gear to complete the house call.
On the ensuing drive, Spanish Fort was nearing striking distance but was eventually faced with a 4th-and-2 opportunity from the 38-yard line. Right after a Toro timeout, Fairhope linebacker Dallas Boothe came up with a tackle on Aaden Shamburger’s quarterback scramble to earn the Pirate defense a turnover on downs and a second straight win over their Eastern Shore rivals.
“That was pretty nice wasn’t it,” Fairhope head coach Tim Carter said of the stop. “Just the way we played the first half was totally different in the second half defensively, and I was really proud of that.”
Toros take over with two rushing touchdowns
Although the visiting Pirates opened the scoring with a Campbell MacKellar field goal, Spanish Fort took control over the next two quarters with short-yardage touchdown runs from Shamburger and Nehemiah Hixon. The Toros collected 11 first downs between five in the first and six in the second to help take a 14-3 lead into the halftime intermission.
There, Carter said the coaching staff kept the message simple and the players went out and executed.
“Win the third quarter. You play four quarters for a reason and our guys just didn’t relax,” Carter said of the halftime message. “You could tell we were young in some areas and inexperienced more than anything, especially at linebacker. But we made a couple adjustments with some personnel that seemed to really respond.”
Enter: Dixon Davis
The third quarter started with the teams trading turnovers before Spanish Fort started building a drive that was approaching the red zone.
On the eighth play of the series, the Toros faced 4th and 2 from the Fairhope 22-yard line and Fairhope safety Dixon Davis met Drew Williamson in the hole. The ball was jarred loose, Davis recovered the fumble he caused then escorted it directly to his head coach.
“It was fourth-and-short, knew we had to stop them. He was right in my gap so I filled the gap, hit him hard right there and popped it out,” Davis said. “I saw it on the ground, went for it and grabbed it then ran it over to Coach Carter, it was beautiful.”
On a 4th-and-2 from just outside the red zone, @FHSPirateFball not only came up with the stop but also the fumble recovery with 6:14 left in the third. Looked like it was Dixon Davis who came up with it #ALHSFB pic.twitter.com/SZsYJlt7Pl— Gulf Coast Media Sports (@GCMSportsAL) August 25, 2023
Godfrey settles into first start at quarterback
Three plays later, Preston Godfrey punched in a rushing touchdown from only a few yards away for the Pirates to cut into their deficit. Godfrey was making his first career start at quarterback after serving as a running back last year.
“They’re some dogs. That’s one of the best, probably in the state,” Godfrey said of the Spanish Fort defense. “We’re never the biggest, we’re never the fastest, we’re never the strongest but you can never count us out of anything.”
Thomas comes through in the clutch
With Fairhope still hanging around, all it took was the knockout blow that Thomas delivered. Godfrey said he wasn’t surprised in the slightest.
“I’m not surprised, he does it in practice every day,” Godfrey said. “Mark these words: Desmond Thomas is going to be special.”
Carter said the Pirates’ offense was close to finishing the job a couple of times but was thrilled to see Thomas be the benefactor of a good game plan.
“That was a great run, Desmond broke it and kept his feet going. We were on the verge all night long of maybe getting something going at a great distance. They are so good up front with their six that was a difficult battle for us,” Carter said. “Our offensive game plan just kept them completely off balance and you’ve got to do that when you’ve got a front six like they have.”
Fairhope moves onto its home-opening game against the Choctawhatchee Indians from Florida. The Toros will be back at home next Friday to open Class 6A Region 1 play against the Blount Leopards.
“It’s chills just like last year to be able to do that,” Dixon said of a second straight win in the Spanish Fort series. “Especially coming back from that first half and how we were losing like that. Just a huge comeback.”
“We knew we were going to come back, we knew it. We were down around this score last year,” Godfrey said of the halftime mentality. “Just keep pounding the rock, they really couldn’t stop the stretch plays”
“If they had converted it and tied it and we went to overtime, I still would have been proud because of how we came out in the second half,” Carter said of the final fourth-down stop.