‘This game means something’: Daphne and Spanish Fort renew intense football rivalry
Eastern Shore rivals Daphne and Spanish Fort are no longer in the same region or even in the same classification.
However, when each school established their out-of-region schedule two years ago, there was never any doubt about planning a game between the Trojans and the Toros.
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“The kids love to play it,” said Fort Spain coach Ben Blackmon. “They love to compete against each other. They really have been doing this since they attached pads from a young age at the prom. This game means something to these kids on both sides.
Spain’s Class 6A No.5 (8-1) Fort will travel to Daphne to face the Class 7A (5-3) Trojans on Friday at Jubilee Stadium. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. It’s the regular season finale for both teams before the playoffs start on November 5.
“It’s a huge game,” said Daphne coach Kenny King. “It was even bigger when we were in the same region, but it’s still big because these kids grew up playing together or against each other. The parents know each other. It’s kind of like that Alabama-Auburn rivalry. No matter the records, no matter if one team is down and the other up, we know they’re going to give us their best and so are we. “
The Trojans didn’t have much luck in the two schools’ brief rivalry, though they won last year’s encounter 21-7 behind current TCU quarterback Trent Battle. Overall, Spanish Fort has a 7-2 advantage.
Daphne qualified for the fourth seed of the Class 7A, Region 1 playoffs despite a young team. The Trojans are starting eight sophomores and one freshman (QB KJ Lacey). They have three senior starters in defense and four in attack.
“I think we are gaining experience every week,” King said. “We are young. We have an inexperienced team, but I feel like we are making progress. They are playing hard and they are fighting.
Despite her youth, Daphne could well approach this match of week 11 with a record of 7-1 instead of 5-3. The Trojans had a big second-half lead over Fairhope and Baker on the road before letting the two slip away. They lost 38-31 in overtime to Fairhope and 35-31 in the dying seconds to Baker.
“It’s frustrating,” King said. “We just have a few young kids who have never been in this moment before. It’s kind of the story of the year. We couldn’t finish, but our guys are learning. They just should not be shaken in adverse conditions.
Lacey has completed 64% of his passes for 887 yards and seven touchdowns since becoming Daphne’s mid-season starter. He has been intercepted four times. Tyler Bradley ran for 723 yards and 8 touchdowns on 104 carries, while Nick Clark ran for 527 yards and 10 touchdowns on 75 carries.
Jamarion Evans leads Daphne’s defense with 83 tackles, including 9 for loss. Garrett Childress has 80 tackles. Memphis hires James Quinnelly and Johnnie Perdue each have four sacks. Braden Jackson has a pair of interceptions to lead the team.
“They made a shift to quarterback,” Blackmon said. “The kid is an athlete and he gives them a gun with his legs. He’s very smart, especially for being just a freshman. Their defensive front is large. They will play their guts against us. They’ll play as hard as they’ve been all year, and we know that from the start. “
Spanish Fort appear to be back after a mid-season home loss to Saraland. The Toros overcame a 34-26 victory over Blount in the aftermath of the loss and have beaten Citronelle (60-10) and McGill-Toolen (35-14) in recent weeks.
“We’re playing pretty well,” Blackmon said. “We try to improve and understand every week. We played one of our best games last week (against McGill). We played with a lot of energy. We were able to contain their running back somewhat (South Alabama commit Braylon McReynolds), which is phenomenal. Our defense forced a few turnovers and made some big plays.
The Toros are led offensively by junior quarterback Brendon Byrd, who threw for 1,183 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 447 yards and seven scores. Senior RB Johnny Morris has 906 yards and 12 TDs on 101 carries. Jacob Godwin leads the team in receptions (23-287-2) while Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Cooper Wilson leads the team in TD catches (4).
“It’s a well-trained team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” said King. “They are used to winning. It is a great task to prepare our children to perform and win at least two of the three phases of the game.
King said the key game will be in front of Daphne’s experienced defensive line against Spanish Fort’s offensive line.
“We have to stop the race, whether it’s Morris or the quarterback running,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to stop the race no matter what.”
Both teams have already clinched playoff spots for next week. Daphne will travel to Central-Phenix City in 7A, while Spanish Fort will host Calera in 6A.