For Gulf Shores football alumni, this season’s successes are looked upon fondly by those who helped set the foundation for the Dolphins’ first state quarterfinal berth in their 23rd …
For Gulf Shores football alumni, this season’s successes are looked upon fondly by those who helped set the foundation for the Dolphins’ first state quarterfinal berth in their 23rd varsity season.
Gulf Shores went 5-5 overall the final two seasons of Dino Tampary’s tenure before Joethan Phillips was on the first Dolphin squad that made the postseason in 2008.
But since quarterback Logan Paul and linebacker JD Swiger helped earn the Dolphins’ first playoff victory in 2009, the team went on to record a .322 winning percentage before this season and had clinched just one more playoff berth in 2013.
Gulf Shores’ 1-9 record in Jacob Knight’s senior season was only one year removed from a winless campaign in 2016. However, that only served as the launchpad toward the history-making season of 2022 where the Dolphins set program records for most wins and points scored in a season.
“It's really nice to see it ran more professionally and more like a college program, it's taken very serious now; it was my dream to make the playoffs and now they're three rounds deep,” Knight said before the Nov. 18 state quarterfinal. “That's really, really cool to see and I'm quite jealous but I'm happy they're experiencing it.”
Tampary said the 2005 and 2006 seasons were only generating steam toward Gulf Shores’ first playoff berth and he was happy to see that roll get picked back up recently.
“We were kind of building and it worked out well so it was nice to definitely build up something and it's nice to see it continue on after so long,” Tampary said. “I'm just glad to see it going in the right direction as far as actually winning, it's been so long since we've really been successful for a sustained period of time.”
For Phillips, he said the high schoolers’ success starts in the youth levels, and that program was recently resumed as well.
“I think that it's a direct correlation to what they're doing and not just at the high school level, but also in the city league and middle school,” Phillips said. “They're putting a lot of effort into the kids, which has been needed when there was a break in time. They did it when we were kids and then it stopped for a little while.”
Paul said it was only going to be a matter of time and that the Dolphins earned their spot in history this season.
“I don't think the turnaround is just good because of the coaches and the players, but it’s the environment. I think we've come such a long way for Gulf Shores High School,” Paul said. “You're right, we didn't win a lot of games before, but because of them were better and we’ve just been trying to grow off what they did.”
The excitement wasn’t contained to just the high school, however, and Swiger said the entire Gulf Shores community caught the football fever.
“You can definitely see it's always been community driven, but I feel like now more than ever you have a lot of social backing, financial backing and that's all been recent,” Swiger said. “It's a direct correlation to being in the third round of playoffs.”
Each of the alumni also offered some parting words on what they would say to members of the 2022 Gulf Shores Dolphins.
“I'd say keep pushing; they're going in the right direction, listen to what your coaches are telling you and everything and I think it'll work out really well,” Tampary said.
“You're going to cherish these moments, it sounds cliche but you're going to remember these days for the rest of your life,” Swiger said. “You’re only guaranteed 10 games so you might as well go all out for every one of them.”
“I'd say keep going; do what you love, try your hardest at it and make memories because that's what will last a lifetime,” Paul said.
“This could be some of their last games but if they don't win, then you come back as alumni and you enjoy it and think of what could have been, so put it all on the line too so that you can say what it is instead of what it could have been,” Phillips said.
“I would tell them to appreciate every moment you get; it goes by so fast,” Knight said. “If you get a second opportunity to play, take it. By any means, take it and enjoy this while you have it because this will never happen again. You will never get this back.”