SPANISH FORT — The checklists were met as head football coaches from the Spanish Fort Toros and St. Michael Catholic Cardinals both said their squads walked away feeling accomplished from their …
SPANISH FORT — The checklists were met as head football coaches from the Spanish Fort Toros and St. Michael Catholic Cardinals both said their squads walked away feeling accomplished from their performances in Thursday’s preseason jamboree.
While the scoreboard showed a 10-6 score in favor of the host Toros after two quarters of play with the varsity starters, both Spanish Fort’s Chase Smith and St. Michael’s Philip Rivers saw some good things and saw other things their teams wanted to clean up before kicking off the regular season next Thursday.
“I think the objective was met tonight. … Getting the kids another night under the lights, getting the jitters out; we know we’re going to build off that and we’re going to get to that next step,” Smith said after the contest. “It was exactly what I was looking for.”
“I think we’ve given ourselves a chance to (get better),” Rivers said. “I think we got better as the game went and I think now we can go watch the tape and get better, hopefully, and be a better team next Thursday night than we were this Thursday.”
New faces in new places
Both teams had new weapons and rapports to test under the closest scenario to a real game they could create. With the Cardinals’ youth, Rivers was excited to get their dress rehearsal done on a big stage.
“40 or 41 of our 60 are 9th and 10th graders so an atmosphere like this is good for them because if we have goals to play in these kinds of atmospheres in November, we need to play in it as much as possible and it’ll be another one like this next Thursday,” Rivers said.
Familial connections at quarterback
The St. Michael head coach saw a familiar face, and number, take over as quarterback when freshman Gunner Rivers hit the field for his first action. Gunner is also the son of the former NFL signal-caller and wears the same number 17.
“I thought he had pretty good poise. I think he rushed a few things, probably felt a little pressure that maybe some of it was real and probably some of it wasn’t real which is part of being a freshman in your first varsity start,” Philip said of Gunner. “I thought all in all he handled it fine, he’s got a lot of moments out here to grow and learn from.”
Dixon tuning up to deal damage for the Toros
One of those from Spanish Fort who brought some of the pressure that was indeed real included linebacker Sterling Dixon, a transfer from Mobile Christian who is committed to Alabama. Smith said he felt as though Dixon’s first action as a Toro went well and he looked forward to seeing more of him in Spanish Fort.
“From what I saw, I think he did well,” Smith said of Dixon. “Obviously played hard and was flying around but still learning and progressing so this is a really good launch point for him to continue to press and get better and better.”
That was also Smith’s takeaway about his team overall but he was most excited about being able to replicate the first-game feelings without it being a regular-season game against the team’s record.
“You just cannot mimic that in practice,” Smith said. “You can scrimmage all you want, do intersquads and go to practice and all that but you just can’t mimic the game atmosphere and the logistics of having refs here and this guy’s gone down so who’s your backup. Just those first-of-the-season things.”
The regular season kicks off for both teams next Thursday, Aug. 24, when the St. Michael Cardinals go on another road trip, this one to Gulf Shores to face the Dolphins. The Spanish Fort Toros will be back at home next week and open against the Fairhope Pirates.
“We got juiced up a little and our guys need that,” Philip Rivers said. “We have a lot of young players that are not used to it yet.”
“You’re still not going to be midseason form, even a jamboree is not going to mimic that,” Smith said. “I think this is a good launch point to go in, correct the mistakes and see what guys are struggling with but also see what guys are doing well to build off that.”