SPANISH FORT, Ala. – The Toros and Thunderbirds traded touchdowns in the first half for a 14-14 score at the break. Park Crossing got the only touchdown of the third quarter to take a 21-14 lead in the final period.
But Spanish Fort put two more TDs on the board in the fourth and the defense stopped Park Crossing’s attack for a 28-21 home field playoff win on the Hill. The T-Birds’ last two drives came close to tying the score, but the SFHS defense held firm.
“It was a total team effort,” said Spanish Fort coach Ben Blackmon. “Offense, defense and special teams. Everybody came together and we knew that’s what it would take against an explosive team like Park Crossing. I’m proud of the way we never quit and excited that we get to play one more on the Hill.”
With the AHSAA Class 6A quarterfinal playoff win, the Toros (9-4) will now host Opelika (11-1) in the 6A semifinal round. The winner will advance to the state championship at Auburn to meet the winner of the Pinson Valley (10-2) at Oxford (12-1) semifinal.
“It’s also a big win for the whole community and Toro nation,” Blackmon said. “And I want to thank everybody for supporting us through thick and thin and never giving up on us. A big shout goes out to the whole student body and I hope everybody can come out and cheer these guys on.”
Trailing Park Crossing 21-14 in the fourth quarter, the Toros went 64 yards to tie the score on a 22-yard touchdown run by Chico Hixon. After forcing a fourth-and-long situation half-way into the period, Ole Miss commit Kris Abrams-Draine took the PCHS punt at his own seven-yard line and returned to the Thunderbirds 46. From there, he then took a keeper down to the PCHS 2. Travis McGowan then plunged through the T-Bird defensive line for the go-ahead/winning score with 4:55 left in regulation to put SFHS ahead for the Toros’ first lead of the night.
Park Crossing’s explosive offense threatened to reach the endzone one more time, but the Toros’ defense came through down the stretch including two big stops by senior defensive end Mitchell Babbs, persistent disruption by junior Christian Burkhalter and a tackle for a loss by blitzing sophomore Carl Fauntroy.
The Birds got near one more time, but on a fourth-and-three, Fauntroy intercepted a pass for Spanish Fort at the Toros’ 13-yard line and returned to the 20 with 59 seconds left to preserve the lead and seal the win. Tanner Keesee was four-for-four off the extra-point tee with Brady Wiggins or Michael Allman sharing the hold.
In the first half, PCHS scored on their opening drive, a 15-yard run by Adaryl Lewis. SFHS did the same on their opening possession to tie the score 7-7 on a 16-yard run by Abrams-Draine. Lewis scored another go-ahead for the Birds early in the second quarter – a one-yard plunge to cap a 51-yard drive. With one minute, 23 seconds left in the half, McGowan evened the score on a TD run on a third-and-goal at the PCHS 2-yard line. The Thunderbirds’ go ahead score in the third quarter was on a 23-yard pass from Trevor Robinson to Lewis with 23 seconds left in the period. Park Crossing finished the season 5-8.
In the other 6A quarterfinals matches: Opelika defeated Hueytown 45 – 24; Oxford defeated Clay-Chalkville 20 – 13 and Pinson Valley defeated Muscle Shoals 26 – 14.
Semifinal Pairings, Friday, Nov. 29
Opelika (11-1) at Spanish Fort (9-4)
Pinson Valley (10-2) at Oxford (12-1)
Pleasant Grove (12-1) at Briarwood Christian (12-1)
Central-Clay County (11-2) at Mortimer Jordan (11-2)
Andalusia (10-3) at UMS-Wright (12-0)
Anniston (9-4) at Jacksonville (11-2)
T.R. Miller (9-4) at Mobile Christian (8-4)
Walter Wellborn (12-1) at Piedmont (12-1)
Leroy (11-2) 35 at Reeltown (12-1)
Collinsville (12-1) at Fyffe (13-0)
Lanett (12-0) at Sweet Water (11-1)
Mars Hill Bible (13-0) at Pickens County (11-2)
SUPER 7 Pairings, Dec. 4: At Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn University
Baldwin County vs. Vestavia Hills, 3:30 p.m.
Thompson (11-1) vs. Central-Phenix City (12-1), 7 p.m.