‘We’re just doing our thing’: Chase Smith plans to continue on Spanish Fort winning path
Pressure is not an adequate description of what Chase Smith may be feeling at the start of his first year as Spanish Fort’s head football coach.
“It’s more like a privilege,” Smith told Daphne at Baldwin County Media Day last week.
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Smith, a former Spanish Fort assistant coach under Bryant Vincent, is back in Toro Town. He takes over the lore-rich program after Ben Blackmon leaves to take over the role of Enterprise.
“It’s very humiliating. It’s an honor,” Smith said. “I first moved to Spanish Fort in 2007, and my family and I have been living there ever since. When I arrived, the program hadn’t won a game. ‘State. To be able to come back now and be the head coach? It’s a huge honor.
Smith was hired in March from Orange Beach High and tasked with continuing Spanish Fort’s championship legacy.
Vincent, now UAB head coach, won 39 games and the 2010 state title with the Toros. Current Thompson trainer Mark Freeman followed with 50 wins and two championships. Blackmon won 77 games and a state title in seven years at the helm.
The program’s playoff record is an impressive 45-8.
“I know the standard,” Smith said. “Tradition is the model here. They are swallowed up in it, which is great. These children work 365 days a year for a high level competition.
The Toros finished 10-2 a year ago. Many programs would consider double-digit wins a success. This is not the case at Spanish Fort. The Toros lost to Opelika in the second round of the playoffs – the first time a Spanish side from Fort had lost a first or second round playoff game.
Blackmon then resigned to take the job at Class 7A Enterprise.
“We were speechless for a while when we heard Coach Blackmon was leaving,” said senior safety Josiah Hixon. “We were like, ‘Wow.'”
That wasn’t the only surprising departure from the off-season program. Brendon Byrd, who started 27 games at quarterback as a sophomore and junior, was traded from Spanish Fort to Gulf Shores. Senior Brayden Walker took over from Byrd at QB and gained the trust of his teammates and coaches.
“I’m excited about Brayden, our quarterback,” said senior wide receiver Jake Godfrey. “He is very composed, a good leader. He always does the right things and encourages others. Playing behind Byrd, I think he learned a lot. We push him to be the best version of himself.
Smith said Spanish Fort has graduated 30 seniors, but also has about 30 in the current class.
“That should be a strength,” he said. “They passed through here. They are part of the norm and I have seen the closeness they develop.
Hixon said the motto of the Spanish fort is unchangeable.
“Ruthless aggression and discipline,” he said. “That’s all it is.”
He also said he thinks the defense of the Spanish fort will be more than solid.
“I expect shutouts every game,” he said.
A year ago, Spanish Fort was averaging 33.4 points per game while giving up 17.2. The Toros’ two losses came to rival Saraland (28-16) in the regular season and against Opelika (28-14) in the playoffs.
Spanish Fort opens the Smith era with back-to-back road games at Class 7A rival Fairhope (August 19) and Blount (August 26). The first home game is September 2 against Baldwin County.
Smith admits the challenge of this job is different from his last two stops. In Robertsdale, he took over a program that had struggled for years. He then started the program in Orange Beach. Although Spanish Fort’s program is young compared to many others in Alabama, the foundation has long been established.
“Spanish Fort has been a success, but whoever supports a program always gives their own take on things based on values and commitment,” he said. “You’re basically starting over with your people and your culture, but clearly the groundwork has been laid.
“There is no pressure in games with these kids and what they have shown. I have no doubts about their performance. I believe in these children, in this community. The pressure I put on myself as a competitor is different, but the outside pressure? No. We’re just doing our thing.