Senior Ronnie Royal ran for three touchdowns, junior Kolin Wilson surpassed triple-digit rushing yards for the 11th game this season and the Gulf Shores defense logged its 10th shutout quarter of the …
Senior Ronnie Royal ran for three touchdowns, junior Kolin Wilson surpassed triple-digit rushing yards for the 11th game this season and the Gulf Shores defense logged its 10th shutout quarter of the playoffs to earn the program’s first trip to the state semifinals with a 35-14 win over the Headland Rams.
The Dolphins, 13-0 for the first time in their history, will face the Eufaula Tigers next week back at home for their first fourth-round playoff game. Eufaula took down Demopolis 20-17 Friday night. The other Class 5A Semifinal pits the Guntersville Wildcats (12-1) against the Ramsay Rams (11-2).
Dolphin defense logs another dominant effort
Gulf Shores kept Headland off the scoreboard until the final 2:31, similar to the 48-7 win over Beauregard in the first round, which helped log a 10th postseason frame where the Dolphins didn’t allow a point. With 124 points against in 13 games, Gulf Shores has allowed an average of 9.5 points per game.
“They're just playing very consistent right now and it's hard to run the ball on them so we're stopping the run and eliminating and giving up very few explosive plays,” Dolphin head football coach Mark Hudspeth said after the game. “And if we can continue doing that and taking care of the football, then like I've said all year long, that's a pretty good recipe for success.”
Sophomore Landon Everett set the tone for Gulf Shores with 9 tackles and senior Kingston Lowe logged 4 sacks to go along with 5 tackles for loss. Junior Carter Byrd contributed 7 tackles and sophomore Jamichael Garrett forced a fumble recovered by senior Isaiah Hammac which led directly to a third-quarter touchdown from Royal.
“For one, we didn't want to let the quarterback get outside of the pocket and he was able to do it a few times and scramble and make some plays which he was very athletic,” Hudspeth said of the game plan. “But for the most part, we got them in some long-yardage situations and played well.”
Offensive line opens lanes for two 100-yard rushers
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphin offensive line paved the way for a pair of triple-digit rushers where Wilson led the way with 153 rushing yards on 19 carries with a 10-yard touchdown and Royal racked up 106 rushing yards on 9 carries with touchdown runs of 25, 4 and 30 yards.
“I thought they controlled their front pretty well. We were able to run the ball effectively and they were mixing up their fronts which means our guys did a nice job of communicating and staying on blocks,” Hudspeth said of Gulf Shores’ offensive line. “Both running backs were effective and that has to go back and gives a lot of credit to the O-Line and the tight ends.”
Freshman quarterback Jud Harris also connected with senior Braden Jackson on a 30-yard touchdown pass to register an eighth straight game where Gulf Shores has scored at least 35 points. The Dolphins now own a 65-4 record when scoring 30 or more points according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society.
More history made
With that, Gulf Shores is heading to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time ever and Hudspeth said he was simply thankful for the opportunity.
“Excited for our team and excited for our community just to be able to bring this excitement back to this community and I know they're excited about next week, our ninth home game of the year,” the head coach said. “And with a chance to punch our ticket to Tuscaloosa.”
While he said the team will celebrate this victory for about 24 hours, he was already looking forward to seeing what Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium will look like next week.
“It's just another step for our program as we continue to improve. We're still playing good football and we're staying healthy,” Hudspeth said. “It’s just a great opportunity to have the chance to play to get to the big dance and we've definitely got that opportunity at home against very good Eufaula team so it'll be an exciting night at the Mick to say the least.”
The Gulf Shores Dolphins (13-0) are set to host the Eufaula Tigers (10-3) on Dec. 1 at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium. The winner will advance to the AHSAA Class 5A State Championship.
“When you're playing when the grass is turning brown, that's always a good sign,” Hudspeth said.