Gulf Shores football set for Ram rematch in state quarterfinal

Dolphins facing familiar opponent in first-ever third-round playoff contest

By Cole McNanna
Sports Editor
cole@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 11/16/22

GULF SHORES — The turnaround in the Gulf Shores Dolphins' football program can be summarized succinctly by senior center Coley Smith.

"One of the things that's locked in my mind was freshman …

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Gulf Shores football set for Ram rematch in state quarterfinal

Dolphins facing familiar opponent in first-ever third-round playoff contest

Posted

GULF SHORES — The turnaround in the Gulf Shores Dolphins' football program can be summarized succinctly by senior center Coley Smith.

"One of the things that's locked in my mind was freshman year, there was holes everywhere in the walls and stuff," Smith said before practice Tuesday, Nov. 15. "Doors wouldn't lock in the bathroom, but then they fixed it all when the new coaches came here."

The mentality about the football being played has also changed direction for the better.

"Everyone's confident. We all love football now," Smith said. "It's not, 'I guess I'll play football this year.' It's more like, 'I'm going to play football and have a shot at winning.'"

Gulf Shores has won more games this season than in any other previous season it has fielded a team, as well as set the school record for points scored in a single season.

Just six years removed from a winless season, second-year head coach Mark Hudspeth has helped Smith and the senior class flip their record from 1-9 as freshmen to now 11-1 with the state quarterfinals on the line Friday.

"That's why we took the job is to come in and build the program," Hudspeth said before Tuesday's practice. "We were excited to take this opportunity, and because of a lot of hard work by a lot of people I think we're definitely on track."

However, Smith knows the success will all be for naught if the lessons they learned don't get passed down to the new players who have the nicer facilities and gear.

"Seniors, we know where we came from. We just have to be able to coach them because now they have all the nice things. Now we have to coach them harder because they don't know what it's like without it," Smith said. "I love being able to teach the younger guys. One guy especially, Tyler Burkett, he's changed so much from his freshman year to now, and just being able to teach him and coach him is awesome."

Similarly, Hudspeth understands this team wouldn't be here this year without the groundwork laid by some of the first Dolphin football squads.

"No. 1 is that they're the ones that laid the foundation. They were here before us working hard laying the foundation, and we're really proud that we can represent all the former players in a way that hopefully makes them proud," Hudspeth said.

Smith echoed his coach's sentiments.

"We're doing it for them," he said. "We're carrying on the pride that they had so they can proudly say, 'That's the school I went to.'"

Gulf Shores is set to host the Faith Academy Rams for the second time Friday night at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium, and although the Dolphins won the first meeting 22-12 in Week 3, Hudspeth said it won't be easy to get a good team twice.

"They're really good defensively. They've had four shutouts this year and three games they allowed seven points or less, so that's seven games where they held teams to seven points or less," Hudspeth said. "So for us, we're going to need to maintain drives. We're going to need to be able to run the football effectively."

Smith thought the weather this time around would bring more chances for a potent offensive attack from Gulf Shores compared to the rain-soaked field in September.

"When we played that game, the field was in horrible condition, so now guys like Ronnie (Royal) and JR (Gardner), they're going to be able to get loose in the field," Smith said.

Follow along on social media (@GCMSportsAL) for updates on the state quarterfinal as it happens and stay tuned to the website for full coverage.

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