Fairhope Storm's unbeaten season ends in semifinals

Storm falls one step away from AFA Championship, finishes season 10-1

By Cole McNanna
Sports Editor
cole@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 6/14/22

The Fairhope Storm’s undefeated season came to an end last weekend in the team’s first trip to the West Finals, one step away from the American Football Alliance Championship.

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Fairhope Storm's unbeaten season ends in semifinals

Storm falls one step away from AFA Championship, finishes season 10-1

Posted

The Fairhope Storm’s undefeated season came to an end last weekend in the team’s first trip to the West Finals, one step away from the American Football Alliance Championship.

Fairhope traveled to Tennessee to take on the Chattanooga Ealges and fell by a 37-8 final score but head coach Fred Riley Jr. was sure not to put this season in the rearview mirror so quickly.

“It stings, but this was really good. It was really special this year and (I wanted to) remind people how special it was and not to dwell on the one loss and get redirected to next year right now but to appreciate this year for what it was,” Riley Jr. said Sunday. “Next year will come fast enough.”

Since the team’s inaugural season in 2020, the Storm has advanced one round in the playoffs deeper each season. Over the last two seasons, Fairhope has registered a 15-1 regular-season record with three playoff wins and two regular-season divisional titles.

Although still slightly unsatisfied with the result, Riley Jr. knew his team would have to take down the Eagles squad if they wanted a chance to hoist the trophy. He said last year, they played a game in Chattanooga and saw the Eagles play after their game and it began to set the bar for where the Storm needs to reach.

“We could see how good they were and how well put together they were and at least we put ourselves this year with an opportunity to do that. We didn’t get it done but experience makes you better,” Riley Jr. said. “To compete at the highest level you possibly can against the best team in your league – and possibly on the east coast – was a big step for us. We’ll be back.”

Despite not being guaranteed to have the same group return, Riley Jr. said this year’s group was certainly a special one to rattle off an undefeated regular season.

“For our guys to win 10 games in a row – winning 10 games in a row at any level is unbelievably difficult. But when you do it at this level, practicing one day a week, I’m so proud of them,” Riley Jr. said. “To go on the road and win four games on the road at this level, it was special to be able to go and do that; we’re mighty proud of all of them.”

After a full day of travel on top of game day, Riley Jr. said the offseason lull came at a good time but things wouldn’t remain stagnant for too long. He said after some time off, player interviews will restart in September before tryouts in October. Last year, the team held a minicamp in December and was wearing full pads in January before the season kicked off in March.

“Every year we learn a little bit more, what do we need to do – we think we have a fantastic franchise. We don’t think there’s anybody in the country who has a better franchise than we do, but what do we need to do to win the whole thing,” Riley Jr. posed. “Yesterday was a great learning experience for us.”

According to stats on the AFA website, running backs Marq Quinnie and Noah Hill led the league in rushing yards (385) and rushing touchdowns (8), respectively. Kicker Jose Mendoza held the league lead in field goals made (9), extra points made (24) and average punt distance (43 yards/punt) and defensively, Hill’s 38 tackles were a league-best followed by linebacker Jamel Grace’s 30.

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