The Pike Road Patriots rattled off 31 unanswered points in the second half to eliminate the Spanish Fort Toros in the second round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s State …
The Pike Road Patriots rattled off 31 unanswered points in the second half to eliminate the Spanish Fort Toros in the second round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s State Playoffs with a 31-17 decision.
Before the clock hit triple zeroes, senior defensive end and Miami commit Cole McConathy used a 5.5-sack effort to secure single-season and career records. McConathy already held the single-game record with 7 sacks against McGill-Toolen last year.
The Alabama-Mississippi All-Star closed his final Spanish Fort season with 24.5 sacks according to MaxPreps stats which topped his 22.5-sack season from last year. After 1.5 sacks as a freshman and 14.5 sacks as a sophomore, McConathy became the state’s new career leader with 63 sacks. Another Toro in Thomas Johnston is the AHSAA’s career tackling leader with 675 tackles between 2013-16.
Spanish Fort got out to its 17-0 lead Friday night after sophomore Aaden Shamburger connected on a 29-yard touchdown hookup with classmate Justin Bonner. Senior Drew Williamson added a short-yardage rushing score and junior Cam Lytle knocked through a 20-yard field goal before halftime.
Pike Road’s comeback was started by a blocked punt returned for a touchdown about four minutes into the second half. With a 17-17 tie and about a minute left in regulation, the Patriots faced a 4th and 1 and not only converted but also hit pay dirt to steal a 24-17 lead with 42 seconds remaining.
The Toros hit the field for one last shot but instead suffered a pick-six to find the end of their postseason road.
On the full season, Shamburger threw for 1,270 yards on 95-of-167 passing with 12 touchdowns against 7 interceptions to go along with 601 rushing yards on 86 carries with 4 touchdowns as well as 2 catches for 28 receiving yards.
Bonner was the leading receiver with 550 receiving yards on 29 catches with 5 touchdowns followed by senior Gabe Myers’ 17 catches for 223 receiving yards and a touchdown. Senior Chandler Wilson, recently rated a 3-star prospect by On3, caught 13 passes for 143 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
On the ground, junior Sawyer Wilson led the team with 815 rushing yards on 138 carries with 7 touchdowns to complement 9 catches for 92 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Fellow junior Nehemiah Hixon got the job done all over the field and finished his campaign with 1,202 all-purpose yards between 576 rushing yards on 59 carries with 4 touchdowns and 24 catches for 269 receiving yards with 2 touchdowns. He also added 191 kickoff return yards and 166 punt return yards with a touchdown.
Dixon leads defense
On the other side of the ball, Spanish Fort had three defenders log more than 100 tackles and the unit was led by senior and Alabama signee Sterling Dixon with 128 total and 31 tackles for loss in addition to 15 sacks for 69 yards lost and 31 quarterback hurries.
McConathy finished with 111 total and 36.5 tackles for loss and 38 quarterback hurries and junior Bishop Burkhalter was right behind with 110 total and 20.5 tackles for loss to complement 5 sacks for 29 yards lost and 16 hurries.
Senior Grey Freeman also brought pressure from the defensive tackle position and finished with 69 tackles and 7.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks for 16 yards lost and 3 hurries. Junior linebacker Newton Gardner registered 60 total with 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks for 4 yards lost and 1 hurry. In the defensive backfield, senior Javonte Walton led the group with 76 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a sack.
The 2023 Spanish Fort Toros outscored opponents 330-174 and was ranked as high as No. 9 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association state poll in the preseason and final rankings.