TUSCALOOSA — The Gulf Shores Dolphins’ dreams came true with a 21-14 win over the defending champion Ramsay Rams Thursday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium to secure the program’s first …
TUSCALOOSA — The Gulf Shores Dolphins’ dreams came true with a 21-14 win over the defending champion Ramsay Rams Thursday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium to secure the program’s first undefeated season at 15-0 which capped a Class 5A state championship.
“What a night, a dream come true,” Gulf Shores head coach Mark Hudspeth said. “These guys have not only won a state championship but to do it in a stadium they had always dreamed about playing in, is special.”
The Dolphins started hot out of the gates with a 21-0 lead in the first quarter before the Gulf Shores defense stood tall once again down the stretch to preserve the victory.
Senior and NC State commit Ronnie Royal provided 245 all-purpose yards with two rushing touchdowns, four tackles and a one-handed interception to earn MVP honors for the Dolphins but he said the state title was a more important prize.
“It feels great, there ain’t nothing to it. I don’t even care about this (MVP plaque), I just care we won that Blue Map,” Royal said after the game.
Hudspeth delivers on championship promise
Just three years after he was hired as the head football coach in Gulf Shores, Hudspeth came through on his promise to return to the beach as state champions.
“Proud of our community, proud to be sitting here with my guys,” Hudspeth said in the postgame press conference. “Proud that Gulf Shores gave me an opportunity three years ago to coach at an incredible place and to live at the beach. I was talking with our superintendent Dr. Matt Akin and principal Cindy Veazy and I told them they gave me the opportunity and I’d bring them a championship so just proud of this group of guys.”
Everett, Garrett lead defense with 7 tackles; ready to takeover heading into next year
Sophomore linebackers Landon Everett and Jamichael Garrett led the Dolphins with 7 total tackles. The pair also recorded a sack on consecutive plays to help kill a Ramsay drive that reached the red zone and nearly turned a Gulf Shores fumble into points two minutes after cutting the deficit to 21-14.
With some of their top defenders set to walk across the graduation stage, Everett knows the returning pod of Dolphins already have their work cut out for them.
“We have an expectation to uphold, so it’s going to be tough especially with all these seniors leaving,” Everett said. “It’s hard to explain, they all contributed in their own way. So many of them, can’t name them all, but especially when it’s their last year and they’re not coming back, you play harder for them.”
“More of the same,” Hudspeth said of what he saw out of the defense. “Even when they got on the goal line, they had a hard time punching it in and we made them earn everything.”
Dolphins storm the field as champs
The Gulf Shores defense came up with one more stop following a missed field goal and the Dolphins spilled over the sidelines to celebrate the program’s first state title.
“It was amazing, it was like nothing I’ve experienced before,” Royal said. “Yeahraj.”
“After we made all those mistakes, our guys never faltered,” Hudspeth said. “They regrouped and we came back and found a way to win the game and put it away. Just so proud of the way they responded to adversity throughout the second half, and we just kept making plays defensively.”
Senior safety Isaiah Hammac recorded 6 total tackles and junior defensive back Carter Byrd added 5 with a tackle for loss. Everett also logged a fumble recovery, which led to Royal’s first score, and 2 tackles for losses of 6 yards and Garrett registered 1 tackle for a loss of 4 yards.
Junior defensive back Blaize Thomas finished with 3 total tackles, 0.5 sacks for a loss of 5 yards, 1.5 tackles for losses of 9 yards, 1 pass breakup and an interception which killed another Ramsay drive that threatened to reach the end zone.
Senior defensive linemen Otto Brewer and Matthew Kisner collected 4 tackles each where Brewer added 1 tackle for a loss of 3 yards and Kisner contributed 0.5 sacks for a loss of 4 yards and 2.5 tackles for losses of 9 yards.
“I wanted to bait my guy, so they threw it to my side because I knew it was going to be an interception. Every day in practice I catch one-handers,” Royal said. “I was that confident I was going to catch the ball (so I only went up with one hand) just to put on a show and there’s nothing to it.”
“It’ll be a great offseason, I’m going to have to work a lot but it’s going to be tough,” Everett said. “I’m going for three rings this year with wrestling too.”
“Didn’t have as clean a second half as we would have liked," Hudspeth said. "Give Ramsay a lot of credit, they’re a class program and a really good team.”