FAIRHOPE – It certainly looked like the seesaw affair between Fairhope and Spanish Fort was going to come down to the final play of regulation. Pirate cornerback Nolan Phillips made sure of …
FAIRHOPE – It certainly looked like the seesaw affair between Fairhope and Spanish Fort was going to come down to the final play of regulation. Pirate cornerback Nolan Phillips made sure of that.
On the Toros’ last play of the fourth quarter, quarterback Brayden Walker heaved a pass downfield only for Phillips to not only make an interception but return it 75 yards for a touchdown as the clock hit triple zeros with the hosts ahead 34-28.
“We were in cover three zone so I was already back, I saw the ball was heading right for me, so I undercut it, picked it off and then started running toward the crib,” Phillips said. “When I was at like the 30-yard line, I saw only two more people running at me I said nah there’s no way, (I got this).”
Fairhope head coach Tim Carter said it was fitting for Phillips to play hero in the first game of the season.
“It was appropriate, we kept flipping him over on the (Khamron) Jackson kid who is a really good kid for Spanish Fort. He had a height advantage on our other corners so we made sure Nolan was on him,” Carter said. “He went and got it, he high-pointed that football and was able to keep his feet and make an unbelievable run.”
Running back Qualin McCants agreed it was a ceremonious end to what was Phillips’ first start at cornerback although he initially thought he may get a chance to get the ball in overtime.
“Very cool, it’s his first time playing cornerback, he’s a junior and he just did that to win the game for us, the first game of the season,” McCants said.“That play was just incredible, I thought our defense was going to shut them down, we get on the field and then go to overtime. But then my boy Nolan Phillips picked it off and took it back to the crib for us to get the dub.”
The Friday night season opener for the Pirates and Toros featured four ties and had three lead changes in the second half but after Fairhope tied things at 21 points apiece halfway into the fourth frame, it never trailed again.
“It was a great way to start the season against a really good opponent, that ballgame could have gone either way. Both teams held leads in the second half, both teams fought back and there was just no quit in either team,” Carter said. “I’m just fortunate we came out on top.”
Wilson records a hat trick
Spanish Fort’s Sawyer Wilson registered three rushing touchdowns (1, 65 and 45 yards) to seemingly swing the momentum to the Toros’ sideline with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
He was complemented in the running game by Jacob Godfrey – who committed to UAB as a slot receiver – who ripped off a long run of his own to tie the score at 28 points apiece with just less than five minutes to play in regulation. Godfrey was among some of Spanish Fort’s athletes who rarely came off the field as two-way contributors.
“He’s a winner,” Carter on quarterback Creel
Pirate quarterback Caden Creel delivered passing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to Sanders Daniell and Greg Bowman that helped his team remain in the game ever after a fumble nearly let the air out of the building. In addition to his arm, Creel made many plays with his legs and had a plethora of Toros miss tackles.
“He’s a winner, that’s what I’ve been saying all year. I don’t know why he doesn’t have 25 college football offers,” Carter said. “He’s elusive, he’s a difference maker; he was Patrick Mahomes for us and what an effort on all our guys. We had a lot of people exhausted and some other kids that had to come in.”
Heat causes lots of cramps
In what was a steamy night in Fairhope following some rain earlier in the day, there were plenty of athletes who suffered cramps, as is to be expected in early-season contests. Still, Carter tried to combat that this offseason.
“It was really draining out there, you could tell both teams were exhausted,” Carter said. “It’s really humid tonight. I’ve never ran a team so much in the preseason and we still cramped up.”
After tonight, Fairhope will travel to Gulf Breeze, Fla. for a non-region Week 2 contest and Spanish Fort moves onto region play on the road against Blount. While the Pirates emerged victoriously in the opener, Carter said the next game will be totally different.
“Next week’s a whole different week,” Carter said. “That’s the problem a lot of people make, they get too caught up in one win. We’re excited, we got a good win against one of our rivals but Week 2 will stand on its own.”
“That’s one of the better wins I think I’ve been a part of,” Carter said. “It was a lot of fun, Spanish Fort will build on this, we’re going to build on this; we’ve got a lot of improvement to make but I’m really proud of our kids.”
“I’ll never forget it, I’ll never forget this,” Phillips said.
Other Baldwin County final scores
Gulf Shores 32, St. Michael 27 (Thursday, Aug. 18)
Baldwin County 14, Davidson 10
Bayside Academy 14, Elberta 13
Cornerstone Christian 38, Snook Christian 20
Orange Beach 28, Pensacola (FL) 20
Prattville 34, Foley 20
Saraland 43, Daphne 23