GULF SHORES — With four interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns, and 26 yards of total offense allowed, the Gulf Shores defense turned in a historic effort to earn a 41-0 win …
GULF SHORES — With four interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns, and 26 yards of total offense allowed, the Gulf Shores defense turned in a historic effort to earn a 41-0 win over Charles Henderson in the Dolphins’ first second-round playoff game at home.
Gulf Shores advances to the state quarterfinals for the second year in a row after never having gone in its previous 22 seasons. The Headland Rams will host the Dolphins in next week’s third round after they beat the UMS-Wright Bulldogs 35-21.
With its 12th win of the year — and fourth via shutout — Gulf Shores also set a program record for most wins in a season to top last year’s Dolphin squad that finished 11-2 overall.
Royal, Byrd, deliver first-half scoring returns
Fellow senior Ronnie Royal followed that with a 78-yard pick-six that killed the Trojans’ second drive with 4:15 left in the first quarter. He stole a pass just over the 25-yard line and had an open lane to the end zone where nobody touched the NC State commit.
“Touchdown, this is going to start the game off right here,” Royal said of his thoughts as he hit the open field. “The receiver was trying to run a stop and go but I read it and they ran into each other. It was either Blaize (Thomas) or Mac (Anderson) who pushed someone into somebody else and then I was like yeah I gotta go get that.”
Junior Carter Byrd supplied a 30-yard interception return that followed a 12-yard scoring rush from sophomore Kolin Wilson in the second quarter to help the Dolphins take a 24-0 lead to halftime. Byrd leaped in the air to steal the pass with a spin before he outraced the calvary to the corner of the end zone.
Everett grabs two third-quarter takeaways
Sophomore Landon Everett came through with the knockout blow where he provided a fumble recovery and a 15-yard pick-six within five minutes of each other.
“You see Mac Anderson’s tall body tip it, I almost dropped the pass I can’t lie. A lot of things were going through my mind,” Everett said. “Then you see the blockers, then you have Kingston (Lowe) hit me into the end zone, it was crazy.”
The linebacker emerged from the end zone with arms windmilling and a 38-0 lead for the host Dolphins and finished with 2 sacks to his credit.
Gulf Shores’ THIRD pick-6 of the night extends to a 38-0 lead over Charles Henderson with 3:08 left in the third. @landoneverett20 collected a pass tipped by @Macanderson21 and ran it back about 20 yards to pay dirt #ALHSFB pic.twitter.com/MLN5iZ4E38— Gulf Coast Media Sports (@GCMSportsAL) November 18, 2023
Hudspeth talks history
Gulf Shores head coach Mark Hudspeth said the 26 yards allowed is a program-best but that the complementary game the Dolphins played was the biggest difference maker.
“We’re just playing really fast right now and (defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder and that staff are doing a great job in their preparation for these teams we’re playing,” Hudspeth said. “Another big thing we’re doing is that we’re not giving teams short fields. And we had zero turnovers tonight. So, we’re pinning teams deep and they have to drive the length of the field. It all works together when you take care of the ball and you play great defense.”
With Friday’s win, Gulf Shores also improved to 38-0 when scoring at least 40 points according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society. Paired with last year’s 42-0 shutout to open the postseason, those two wins also serve as the Dolphins’ largest margin of victory in the playoffs.
On the other side of the ball, it was only the third time Gulf Shores had recorded multiple shutout victories in a single season where Dolphin teams in 2007 and 2021 — when VanGorder was also defensive coordinator — each recorded two.
Wilson logs 10th triple-digit game
With a 64-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Wilson eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the 10th time this season. His pair of scores complemented 121 rushing yards on the night.
Principal Veazey, Superintendent Akin join in on celebration
During Hudspeth’s postgame address to his team, the head football coach invited Gulf Shores High School Principal Cindy Veazey and GSCS Superintendent Matt Akin into the celebratory huddle.
“Our whole school and our community, everybody’s just all in and I appreciate their support in this community,” Hudspeth said. “What a great crowd atmosphere, second-round playoff game here and now 12-0.”
Sophomore Jamichael Garrett led the Dolphin defense with 9 tackles to go along with 3 tackles for loss. Senior Isaiah Hammac was not far behind with 8 total tackles and classmate Kingston Lowe recorded 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
The Dolphins (12-0) will hit the road to face the Headland Rams (10-2) in next week’s state quarterfinal. Although Gulf Shores made its first third-round appearance last season, that is where the Dolphins’ 2022 postseason came to an end.
“We didn’t get past the third round last year so this is a big goal for us,” Hudspeth said. “Right now, it’s a one-game season so hopefully we can finish it and get past this next round, it’s going to take a lot of work because they’re a really good team.”
Headland finished third in Class 5A Region 2 and have outscored opponents 390-232. Friday’s win over UMS-Wright served as the Rams’ fourth in a row entering Week 14.
“Now this is a time we have to make a statement,” Royal said. “All the adversity we had, everything with the haters and all that, we just have to send a statement that we really are who we say we are.”
“It was a close game, not that the scoreboard looks like it but when you have three pick-sixes, it helps a lot,” Everett said. “Then you have a shutout, best defense in the state of Alabama.”
“A lot of times the pick-sixes come with pressure by the front four so the front four was able to get a lot of pressure tonight and force some throws, get hits on the quarterback and we were just in the right position,” Hudspeth said. “It was a great all-around effort by our team to beat a team that played for the 5A state championship last year.”