Saraland, AL – The reigning AHSAA Class 6A state champion Saraland Spartans secured their spot in the Class 6A semifinals with a 31-21 win over the Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa Patriots Friday night in South Alabama.
The Patriots season came to an end at the hands of the Spartans for the second season in a row. Last season, the Spartans knocked off Hillcrest 56-31 in the second round of the AHSAA playoffs.
The Patriot defense started out strong as Anthony Quarles scooped up a fumble handing the ball and the early quarterfinal momentum to the visitors. Capitalizing on the turnover, Hillcrest drove the ball 79 yards in nine plays to grab a 7-0 advantage. Senior DeCorrion Thomas highlighted the drive by sprinting around right end, on a fourth down run, for a 15-yard touchdown.
Unfazed by this early setback, Saraland responded as they are known to do. Santae McWilliams concluded a nine-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, leveling the score at 7 apiece.
As the first half drew to a close, the Spartans capitalized on a failed Hillcrest fake punt attempt turning the miscue into seven points as quarterback KJ Lacy connected with McWilliams from just inside the Patriot 10 yard line with 13 ticks left in the first half.
The Spartans carried their momentum into the third quarter, scoring two early touchdowns to seize control of the game. Deshawn Spencer scored on a 15-yard run, and then Williams added to the tally with a 56-yard run on a tunnel screen. This extended Saraland’s lead to 28-7 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Despite being down, the Patriots continued to fight. Hillcrest quarterback Bryson Kimbrough tossed late game touchdown passes to Jackson Henderson and Chemar Moore. But it was too little, too late as the top ranked Spartans held on and punched their ticket to the semifinals.
Alabama commit Santae Williams Jr. had an impressive performance, catching four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. He also contributed to the ground game, rushing six times for 45 yards.
With the loss, the Region 4 champion Hillcrest Patriots’ season come to an end at 12-1.
Saraland prepares to welcome the 11-2 Pike Road Patriots to Spartan Stadium next Friday night in the Class 6A semifinals. The winner will advance to the Super 7 Championships at Bryant-Denny Stadium.