SPANISH FORT — The Spanish Fort defense pitched a shutout as juniors Sawyer Wilson and Nehemiah Hixon each scored a pair of touchdowns to help the Toros take down the Robertsdale Golden Bears …
SPANISH FORT — The Spanish Fort defense pitched a shutout as juniors Sawyer Wilson and Nehemiah Hixon each scored a pair of touchdowns to help the Toros take down the Robertsdale Golden Bears 45-0 in Class 6A Region 1 action Friday night.
Spanish Fort limited Robertsdale to 38 yards of total offense, 59 of which were gained on the final drive of the game with a running clock. The Toros took a 35-0 lead into the halftime break where the Golden Bears had registered -21 yards of total offense.
“Good performance by them, we didn’t let anything overwhelm us or anything,” Spanish Fort head coach Chase Smith said. “We just played good solid defense; nothing spectacular, nothing crazy, just good overall fundamental defense.”
Burkhalter helps bury Bears
Spanish Fort junior linebacker Bishop Burkhalter confirmed the unit all got on the same page and executed the game plan.
“I feel like we started fast and built off last week,” Burkhalter said. “We just all played together and came together to get the shutout.”
Smith said Burkhalter’s play exemplified the unit’s effort that swarmed the Robertsdale offense.
“He’s just flying all over the place. He’s really aggressive; a really physical, good football player,” Smith said of Burkhalter. “And played a clean game, no penalties or things like that so we’ve got to keep building off that.”
Hixon electrifies with punt return touchdown
In between Wilson’s scoring rushes in the first quarter came a big punt returned for a touchdown. Hixon caught the ball near midfield on the near sideline only to find a block and reverse fields to reach the end zone.
“When I first got the ball, I saw I was in space and I thought, ‘Ok let’s see what I can do right here,’” Hixon said. “Next thing I know, I see one of my teammates on the punt return blocking somebody to sleep so I said, ‘That’s who I’m going to run behind, right there.’”
Hixon added a 20-yard rushing touchdown when he lined up as a slot receiver and took a handoff around the edge and cut up the sideline for a second-quarter score.
The head coach noted the importance of scoring in the third phase of the game to help round out the Toros’ team effort.
“Anytime you can get productive and explosive plays and get points on special teams, that’s huge,” Smith said. “We put an emphasis on that, (Hixon) did a great job of executing.”
Wilson gives Toros 21-0 lead after one
The offense ran behind the powerful blocks from Spanish Fort’s offensive linemen — including Blake Smith, Alabama State commit Bree Blackmon, Ryan Perry, Nolan Gazzier and Cole Miller as well as tight end Chandler Wilson — where Sawyer Wilson was the benefactor on two big scoring runs.
His first opened the scoring from 2 yards out before the other came on the final play of the first quarter where Sawyer broke off a 43-yard run up the middle and to the end zone.
“They’ve been working their butt off all week long to go out and perform, they’ve really stepped up their game in playing for the guy next to them,” Sawyer said of the offensive line. “The more they help me out, the more I can help them out, and I always want to celebrate with them because they’re they guys that make it happen.”
END Q1: Spanish Fort 21 Robertsdale 0. @sawdawg13’s second rushing score of the night, this one from 45 yards out, closes the first frame and gives the Toros a 21-0 lead over the Golden Bears. Robertsdale has -16 yards of total offense between fumbles and a sack #ALHSFB pic.twitter.com/8xMAOwdcUL— Gulf Coast Media Sports (@GCMSportsAL) October 21, 2023
Smith saw solid performances from both the running back and linemen where the ground attack helped pace the game.
“I thought he ran really hard, I know he had a couple big touchdowns and I’m happy for him, proud of him to hit that pay dirt. He’s a workhorse for us so I expect nothing less,” Smith said of Sawyer. “Offensive line I thought played physical. Obviously, the run game was really good for us tonight so kudos to them and our tight end, they’ve been doing a really good job of paving the way for those running backs.”
Athletes: units complemented each other
The athletes acknowledged the opposite group’s effort in the all-around win Friday night.
“They were doing great. They weren’t letting them get a yard. They were fitting their gaps and they were doing what they were supposed to,” Sawyer said of the Toro defense. “They get tested all week long so I know from my perspective when I get out there that I have a lot of confidence in them because those guys are really good at what they do.”
“They got it going and we believe in them. They’re going to keep continuing to score and we’re going to be right behind them,” Burkhalter said of the offense.
Robertsdale rallies on final drive
On their final drive of the contest, the Robertsdale Golden Bears worked out of the shadow of their own goal posts with two big passing connections. Junior quarterback Andrew McDaniel hooked up with classmate Bryson Gier on 21- and 30-yard passes to reach Spanish Fort territory for the first time.
The visitors got close to the red zone but eventually had their drive stall at the 25-yard line when the Toros forced a turnover on downs with only a few minutes remaining.
Shamburger, Lytle close Spanish Fort scoring
Sophomore quarterback Aaden Shamburger and senior kicker Cameron Lytle closed Spanish Fort’s scoring in the third quarter with a 17-yard scramble and 42-yard field goal, respectively. Shamburger converted a 3rd-and-3 opportunity to push the Toros’ lead to 42-0 before Lytle nailed a field goal as time expired in the frame.
Robertsdale fell to 0-8 and 0-7 in 6A-R1. The Golden Bears are scheduled for another away game next week against the No. 4 Mary G. Montgomery Vikings (9-0, 6-0 in Class 7A Region 1).
Spanish Fort improved to 7-2 overall and 6-1 in region play. The Toros hit the road to face the Murphy Panthers (2-6, 2-4) to close the regular season in Week 10.
“That’s the goal and we’ve really come a long way and progressed every week,” Smith said of the new 6-1 region record. “That’s the goal but you can’t plateau; you can’t just remain the same and I think we’ve been taking steps forward, so we’ve got to continue that.”
“I say it’s very important because if you can win in all phases of the game, then that’s very big,” Hixon said. “Big shoutout to the punt return team.”
“Firing off from the start is definitely a game changer. Punching them in the mouth to get the steam rolling and get the team going is definitely really important for the outcome of the game,” Sawyer said.
“It’s a good feeling, it’s homecoming so we’re just going to enjoy it and then get ready for next week,” Burkhalter said. “Gotta control what you can control and go get the job done.”
“Just a great victory for us up here in the community. The band was great, cheerleaders, dance, color guard, had a great crowd out; it was a really good homecoming atmosphere and we’re always happy that our boys can take care of business on the field,” Smith said.
Other Week 9 final scores
Bayside Academy 38, Escambia County 14
Davidson 52, Foley 41
Fairhope 34, Alma-Bryant 13
No. 4 Jackson 42, St. Michael 21
No. 4 MGM 34, Daphne 7
Murphy 34, Baldwin County 20
Orange Beach 45, Wilcox Central 28
Sparta Academy 54, Snook Christian 35
No. 10 Vigor 46, Elberta 7