Montgomery, AL – Fairhope High School junior Nolan Phillips returned an interception 75 yards as time expired Friday night to lift the Pirates to a 34-28 win over Spanish Fort in the season opener for the neighboring Baldwin County rivals. He snatched the long pass out of the air at the Pirates’ 25-yard line, then displayed some incredible grit, breaking tackle after tackle on a return that culminated with him crossing the goal line – with his teammates storming the end zone to congratulate him.
For his efforts, Phillips captured the AHSAA Prep Football Spotlight for Week Zero – edging out another last play defensive touchdown by Cullman seniors Garrett Hall and Ben Washburn as the Bearcats knocked off Mars Hill Bible 13-10.
Phillips and his teammates trailed 28-21 in the final quarter before staging the comeback win.
“Great way to start the season,” Fairhope coach Tim Carter told al.com. “Great opponent. Both teams led in the game. There was no quit in either team.”
Sawyer Wilson, who rushed for 141 yards on 11 carries, scored three touchdowns to lead Spanish Fort, which took the lead 28-21 in the fourth quarter on a 67-yard run by Jake Godfrey. The Pirates tied the game on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Caden Creel to Gregory Bowman tying the game at 28-28. Creel finished 19-of-34 passing for 218 yards and three touchdowns.
Fairhope got the ball back but lost a fumble with 37 seconds remaining in the final period – setting up the final Toros possession of the night and Phillips’ ultimate heroics.
Cullman found itself trailing Mars Hill Bible 10-7 with just seconds remaining in that contest. Backed up inside their own 10-yard line and facing fourth down, the Panthers chose to send their punter into the end zone for a possible safety to run out the clock. Cullman’s Hall, however, gave chase and stripped the ball from the punter’s hands in the end zone and Washburn pounced on the ball for the touchdown and the Bearcats emerged with a 13-10 win as the final horn sounded.
“I’ve coached 30 years,” Cullman coach Oscar Glasscock told the Cullman Times. “I’ve never been part of a game that ended like that.”
Week Zero brought a lot of surprises, milestone victories and several amazing performances.
Among them were:
GABE BENTON, BENJAMIN RUSSELL: Was 18-of-23 passing for 443 yards and six touchdowns, and Corri Milliner caught six passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns as the Wildcats rolled to a 41-7 win over Sylacauga in Coach Smitty Grider’s first game as the Wildcats’ head coach. The 443 yards passing set a school record and ranks 38th all-time in the AHSAA State Record Book.
KAREEM KEYE, MINOR: Was 29-of-39 passing for 410 yards and five touchdowns as Minor downed Huffman 49-25. He also had eight rush attempts for 51 yards in the win.
JOSH HESTER, GASTON: Rushed for 399 yards on 19 carries and scored three touchdowns in a 64-40 win over Asbury. He also added 79 yards in kickoff returns including one return for a touchdown, managed three 3-point conversions, and had eight tackles and a sack on defense. Gaston’s season-opening win was just the second for the Bulldogs since 2015.
ETHAN CRAWFORD, HILLCREST-TUSCALOOSA: Scored on a 4-yard run with 17.9 seconds left to lead the Patriots to a 28-21 win over Pike Road – snapping a 29-game regular-season winning streak in the process. Class 6A Pike Road, which finished 14-0 to win the 2021 Class 5A state championship, had not lost a regular-season game since losing to Beulah 29-24 on October 26, 2018. The Patriots from Montgomery County are 35-5 in regular-season games since starting football in 2018 and 42-8 overall. Pike Road, coached by Ed Rigby, is 10-3 in playoff games. Hillcrest, coached by Jamie Mitchell, is in 42nd season. The Tuscaloosa team is 288-181 overall with a 149-81 slate at home is 129-91 in road games during that stretch.
IAN GARNER, BRINDLEE MOUNTAIN: Ran for three touchdowns and threw a 5-yard TD pass for what turned out to be the winning score as the Lions snapped a 43-game losing streak with a 26-20 win over Cherokee. He also converted a 2-point run and picked off a pass on the game’s final play. The Lions’ last previous win came on Sept. 22, 2017, versus Douglas 25-6.
ROMAN GAGLIANO, OPELIKA: Completed 13-of-18 passes for 232 yards and one TD to lead the Bulldogs past Callaway (GA) 29-28. He also rushed for one score. The win was No. 599 for Opelika’s storied program. The Bulldogs have a 599-404-18 overall record since 1917 – and ranks 30th in AHSAA history for total wins. Coach Erik Speakman’s team hosts Jeff Davis next Friday.
ZANE SCROGGIN, WOODLAWN: The defensive back had six tackles and two interceptions on defense. Playing quarterback in a reserve role, he entered the game in the first half due to an injury to the starter – and completed 7-of-13 passes for one TD and rushed for another score as the Colonels downed Bessemer City 18-15. The victory was the 450th in Woodlawn history – dating back to the Birmingham school’s first season in 1921. Woodlawn has a 450-484-26. Leeds also posted win No. 550 last weekend with the Green Wave beating Mortimer Jordan 21-7.
Leeds is now 550-420-20 overall.
BLAZE GERHART, SARDIS: Ran for 134 yards and a touchdown in a come-from-behind 16-14 win over DAR. The victory, coming in the debut of new head coach Chris Stephenson, was just the second win by the Class 5A Lions in its last 24 games. Sardis was 0-10 in 2020 and 1-9 in 2021.
TYLER NELSON, GARDENDALE: Ran 23 times for 317 yards and three touchdowns and completed 10-of-15 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-34 win over James Clemens. He had one TD run of 93 yards and finished with 467 total yards on the night.
MICHAEL TOWNER, VIGOR: A defensive lineman by trade who was named the ASWA 2021 Class 4A Lineman of the Year scored the only TD of the game on a bruising 5-yard run out of the wildcat formation on a fourth-and-3 play to lift the Wolves to a 7-0 win over rival Blount in the Battle of Prichard. Vigor improved to 37-18 in the series which was first played in 1971.
THEOLA McKINSTRY, TARRANT: Helped the Wildcats win their first season opener since 2006 with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on eight carries in the 27-6 win over Talladega County Central. Teammate Keuntaye Palmore also rushed for more than 100 yards with 107 yards on 12 carries as Tarrant opened its new stadium with the win. Tarrant had lost 15 straight season openers during the stretch from 2007-2021.
KEETON LANPHEAR, RED BAY: Rushed for 127 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns. The final TD came on a 1-yard run to give Coach Heath Childers’ Class 2A Tigers the lead for good as Red Bay beat Class 4A Hamilton 22-20. It was its first on-the-field win over the Aggies in school history. The season opener was the first time the two schools had played since 1983. The Aggies and Tigers initially started the series in 1932. Hamilton came to Friday’s game holding an 18-1 advantage in the series with Red Bay’s only previous victory coming in 2020 in a COVID forfeit.
Other highlights reported include:
CAMERON DEAVER, MEEK: Managed 34 rush attempts for 298 yards and four touchdowns as Meek downed Maplesville 36-12.
TROY BRUCE, CENTER POINT: Managed 240 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 18 carries in the Eagles’ 55-37 win over Jasper. Teammate Jabari Collier added 206 yards rushing and three TDs on 10 carries. He also completed 8-of-11 passes for 196 yards and two TDs to total 402 yards.
KHALFA KEITH, PARKER: Ran for 270 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries as the Thundering Herd downed Fairfield 35-12.
JORDAN SMITH, ARITON: Piled up 241 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 16 carries in a 50-28 season-opening win over Dale County.
JORDAN GODSEY, LAMAR COUNTY: Rushed for 228 yards on 23 carries in a 42-40 win vs. South Lamar.
JEREMIAH COBB, MONTGOMERY CATHOLIC: Rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries to lead the Class 4A Knights to a 42-21 win over Class 6A McGill-Toolen Catholic.
WESLEY RODGERS, SPRING GARDEN: Ran for 211 yards and four scores on 17 rushes in a 40-8 victory over Sand Rock.
CONNER BATES, SPRING GARDEN: Rushed for 210 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries to lift the Panthers to a 40-8 win over Sand Rock. He had TD runs of 61, 5, 51 and 10 yards and added a 2-point conversion. Teammate Chapel Pope also rushed for 110 yards on eight carries with a 78-yard TD sprint.
WAUNTAVIOUS CONLEY, ABBEVILLE: Had 207 yards rushing and two touchdowns (53, 56 yards) on 13 carries as the Jackets blanked Beulah 26-0. He also had eight tackles and a fumble recovery on defense.
ALVIN HENDERSON, ELBA: Totaled 191 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries in Elba’s 40-8 win over New Brockton.
JAXON WILLIAMS, HEADLAND: Gained 186 rushing yards and three touchdowns and was 8-of-10 passing for 29 yards in the Rams’ 38-26 over Geneva. His TD runs covered 51, 36 and 6 yards.
FLUFF BOTHWELL, ONEONTA: Ran 12 times for 178 yards and three touchdowns (9, 15 and 63 yards) in a 47-14 victory win over Cleveland. The Blount County rivals each reached the state finals in 2021 with the Redskins playing the 4A finals and the Panthers in the 2A finals.
EASTON SMITH, WEST LIMESTONE: Ran for 163 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-21 win over Ardmore.
TACARIS BOZEMAN, SIDNEY LANIER: Ran 16 times for 163 yards with TD runs covering 53, 45 and 13 yards as the Poets knocked of Lee-Montgomery 20-7.
DRAKE FRANKLIN, ARAB: Ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns to help the Knights defeat Albertville 47-14. He scored on runs of 31, 6 and 5 yards.
ZAC McCRAY, CLAY-CHALKVILLE: Ran for 154 yards on 11 carries (14 yards per carry average) with a touchdown in the win over Briarwood.
TRAVIS PEARSON, TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN: Scored on a 74-yard run right out of the chute and finished with 136 yards and two scores on just seven carries as the Wildcats beat B.T. Washington of Tuskegee 34-16. Pearson did not play in the second half.
JACOB CORNEJO, CHEROKEE COUNTY: Had 154 total yards on offense, 88 rushing and 66 receiving, and scored two touchdowns. He had a 20-yard TD run among his 18 carries and hauled in a 60-yard TD pass.
BUCKY LEEK, CEDAR BLUFF: Accounted for all three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 22-20 win over Winterboro. He rushed for 60 yards on 13 carries scoring on an 8-yard run. He also three two TD passes covering 40 and 27 yards in the win.
JACK SMITH, HARTSELLE: Passed for 345 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a TD in a 45-17 win over Austin.
KEYWONE POSEY, PINSON VALLEY: Passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the Indians’ 34-14 win over Florence. The victory was the first for new head coach Lee Guess.
KAMERON KEENAN, RAMSAY: Was 26-of-35 passing for 312 yards and five touchdowns as the Rams thumped Hueytown 41-28 in a game played at historic Legion Field.
BRAXTON PETERS, WEST MORGAN: Completed 10-of-12 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-31 win over Randolph.
IAN SENN, ARITON: Was 15-of-23 passing for 295 yards and five touchdowns in a 60-28 win over Dale County.
KJ LACEY, SARALAND: The sophomore quarterback completed 23-of-33 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in a 43-23 win over Daphne. He also rushed for a third score.
PARKER STEPHENSON, ELMORE COUNTY: Snapped 10-game losing streak with 282 total yards as Elmore County downed Marbury 35-17. He was 9-of-17 passing for 144 yards and three scores and rushed 10 times for 138 yards.
ERIC HANDLEY, PLEASANT GROVE: Was 16-of-20 passing for 258 yards and six touchdowns in the Spartans’ 51-8 victory over Paul Bryant.
REMINGTON TAYLOR, THORSBY: The Rebels’ quarterback totaled 358 total yards leading Thorsby to a 33-22 victory over Chilton County neighbor and rival Jemison High School in the season opener. He was 11-of-18 passing for 180 yards and one TD and rushed 15 times for 178 yards and two more scores in the win. Receiver Cadon Church had four receptions for 65 yards and snared a 13-yard TD connection.
BRANDON MUSCH, WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN: Led the Wildcats to a 44-23 win over Lee-Huntsville completing 16-of-21 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 149 yards and three TDs – finishing 335 total yards and accounting for six scores.
JAYLIN EPPS, CENTRAL-PHENIX CITY: Passed for 235 yards and one TD and rushed for 65 yards to lead the Red Devils to a 37-21 victory over Hewitt-Trussville.
PEYTON FLOYD, HEWITT-TRUSSVILLE: Totaled 235 yards passing with two TDs and rushed for a third score in a 37-21 loss to Central-Phenix City.
K.J. JACKSON, SAINTG JAMES: Was 5-of-6 passing for 230 yards and four TDs in a 42-14 win over Montgomery Academy. He had an 80-yard scoring strike to Ethan Beard for his longest TD of the night.
KALEB ROBINSON, WHITESBURG CHRISTIAN: Threw five touchdown passes in a 41-8 win over Woodville.
MASON COLEY, WESTBROOK CHRISTIAN: Was 13-of-18 passing for 223 yards and four touchdowns in the Warriors’ 38-3 win over St. John Paul II Catholic.
TANNER EADS, GAYLESVILLE: Was 11-of-27 passing for 211 yards and three TDs (72, 20 and 18 yards) in a 63-27 loss to West End.
JIM OGLE, JACKSONVILLE: Was 18-of-26 passing for 210 yards and four touchdown in the Golden Eagles’ 27-7 win over Boaz.
CALEB McCREARY, MONTGOMERY CATHOLIC: Was 13-of-20 passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 10 times for 103 yards in the season-opening 42-21 victory over McGill-Toolen Catholic.
JOSH WARD, SPARKMAN: Threw five touchdown passes in a 77-9 win over Hazel Green.
KADYN MITCHELL, HOUSTON ACADEMY: Was 10-of-14 passing for 164 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 78 yards on four carries and led the Raiders to a 28-0 win over Wicksburg.
TYLER JONES, WEST END: Completed 5-of-10 pass attempts for 143 yards and two touchdowns (18 and 48 yards) in the Patriots’ 63-26 win at Gaylesville.
JAYDEN GILBERT, CLEMENTS: Caught three passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 138 yards and two TDs on 11 carries, and picked off two passes on defense in a 48-34 win over Holly Pond.
TJ BANKS, NORTHRIDGE: Had six receptions for 160 yards receiving, including a 75-yard touchdown catch, and tacked on 65 rushing yards in s 23-14 loss to Oak Mountain.
TREMELL WASHINGTON, RAMSAY: Grabbed 15 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns, one covering 83 yards, as Ramsay beat Hueytown 41-28. Teammate Jalen Jones added five catches for 131 yards and two scores and had a 36-yard TD run.
TARIQ THAXTON, GRISSOM: Caught 11 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-21 win over Russellville.
DREW PUCCIO, ARAB: Hauled in five catches from quarterback Aidan Cox for 136 yards and two touchdowns covering 56 and 51 yards in a 47-14 win over Albertville. Cox finished with 195 yards passing.
WILL WELLS, HOUSTON ACADEMY: Pulled down seven pass receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the Raiders’ 28-0 win over Wicksburg.
HAROLD HOLLOMAN, CENTER POINT: Snagged five catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 55-37 win over Jasper.
PERRY THOMPSON, FOLY: Had six catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-20 loss to Prattville.
RONNIE ROYAL III, GULF SHORES: Had 118 yards and one TD receiving and rushed for two scores as the Dolphins beat St. Michael Catholic 34-27.
GAVIN SMART, BOAZ: Made six catches for 112 yards and a touchdown in the Pirates’ 27-7 loss to Jacksonville.
COOPER SANFORD, FAYETTE COUNTY: Scored the winning touchdown on a 23-yard reception and clinched the victory with an interception with 27 seconds left in a 28-24 win against Cordova.
QB REESE, RAMSAY: Contributed 17 tackles with a forced fumble, a sack, two quarterback pressures and a tackle for loss in the Rams’ 41-27 win over Hueytown in a game played at Birmingham’s legendary Legion Field.
KU’JUAN KINSEY, ABBEVILLE: Totaled 16 tackles and recovered two fumbles in a 26-0 shutout over Beulah. Teammate Zander Peterman added 13 stops, including two quarterback sacks and another tackle for a loss.
BROOKS BOZEMAN, SULLIGNT: Had 16 total tackles and a fumble recovery in a 36-18 win over Oakman.
BRAYLEN ROBERTS, MEEK: Recorded 10 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in a 36-12 win over Maplesville.
TAE GAY, OPELIKA: Had 10 tackles to lead the Bulldogs’ defense as Opelika nipped Callaway (GA) 29-28.
DANIEL ALDRIDGE, SOUTH LAMAR: Posted 10 tackles in a 42-20 loss vs. Lamar County.
JADEN JONES, MONTGOMERY CATHOLIC: Had 10 tackles, including four stops for losses, and recovered a fumble in a 42-21 win over McGill-Toolen Catholic.
JACKSON HAMBY, WEST END: Scored two touchdowns on defense – returning an interception and fumble recovered for TDs – in West End’s 63-36 win over Gaylesville. Teammate Thad Pearce also had two interceptions on defense.
JOHN WELSH, SPRING GARDEN: Had a sack, recovered a fumble and added six tackles as the Panthers beat Sand Rock 40-8.
BRAXTON WILSON, HORSESHOE BEND: Ran 45 yards with a fumble for a TD to spark the Generals to a 14-6 win over Wadley.
ALEX JOHNSON, CHROKEE COUNTY: Scooped up a fumble and raced 15 yards for the Warriors’ first TD in a 20-0 win over Model High School of Rome (GA).
KEYLON HIGGINS, GAYLEVILLE: Returned a kickoff 88 yards for a TD in the third quarter and also caught four passes for 94 yards – one covering 72 yards for a TD – in the Trojans’ 63-26 loss to West End.
COLE BLAYLOCK, UMS-WRIGHT: The senior returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and rushed 26 times for 107 yards finishing with 237 all-purpose yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns in a 21-14 victory over rival St. Paul’s Episcopal.
BEN ABERCROMBIE, DECATUR HERITAGE: Kicked a 36-yard field goal as time expired to propel the Eagles past Section 24-22.
JORDAN WASHINGTON, HELENA: Opened the 2022 season with a bang returning the opening kickoff of last Thursday’s AHSAA Kickoff Classic game at Cramton Bowl with an 86-yard touchdown run. He finished with 123 yards rushing on 25 carries and added a 15-yard scoring run.
TOWNS McGOUGH, AUBURN: Drilled a game-winning 36-yard field goal with 2:31 remaining to lift the Tigers past Hoover 17-14 in Friday night’s Kickoff Classic battle at Cramton Bowl.
LUKE KILGORE, TUSCALOOSA ACADEMY: Scored on a 55-yard punt return in the school’s official debut in the AHSAA versus Holy Spirit. TA won 45-12.