The Spanish Fort offense got off to a slow start Thursday night at home against Fairhope in the California Dreaming Bowl, but once the Toros got things rolling they made the plays that provided them with a 21-10 victory over the Pirates.
Johnny Morris III scored a pair of third-period touchdowns that extended a 7-3 lead to 21-3 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
Fairhope had opened the game with a 17-play, 93-yard drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal by Luke Freer and a 3-0 lead. In the second period, after Morris clicked off runs of 8 and 51 yards to the Fairhope 14, Zahariah Hixon put the Toros, ranked No. 2 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 6A preseason poll, in front on the next play covering the remaining 14 yards. Spanish Fort, leading 7-3, would not trail again.
Morris, who rushed for more than 150 yards, had scoring runs of 14 and 46 yards that upped the lead to 21-3. Fairhope managed a score in the waning seconds of the game when quarterback Caden Creel tossed a 21-yard scoring pass to Overton Turner and Freer’s PAT made it 21-10.
“It felt good to get that first win,” Morris said. He noted that “everything started to open up more” for the Toros’ offense in the second half. “… We have a lot in store. We’re bringing everything,” Morris said of Spanish Fort’s mentality this season. “We’re not coming to play around or nothing like that, we’re coming to win.”
The Toros reached the Class 6A state title game the past two years and finished as state runner-up both times.
“It was a good start,” Morris said of his play. “I feel like I had a good start.”
Spanish Fort heads coach Ben Blackmon said, “Obviously when you start the first game with a win against a quality opponent like Fairhope you’ll take it. It was sloppy and we’ve got a lot of little things to fix and get better week by week. We had some good things. We turned the ball over and had some scoring opportunities and things that we didn’t punch in and some special teams that didn’t go our way early, and we’ve got to fix those things at practice.
“Johnny had a good game, (quarterback) Brendon (Byrd) had a good game, all of our guys did. … They all played good. .. I was proud of all of them.”
Fairhope head coach Tim Carter said he was pleased with the effort put forth by his team.
“I thought it was a great game with a lot of effort on both sides,” he said. “We knew they were explosive offensively and they kind of turned it up in the third quarter a little bit. But I was real proud of our kids. I thought we played hard and it was a battle.”
Spanish Fort has a big game next Friday night. The Toros travel to face Class 5A defending champion and No. 1-ranked St. Paul’s on the Saints’ home field. Fairhope is at home against Andalusia.
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