Saraland’s Jamison Curtis (8) and Zion Williams pour through to block this punt by Spanish Fort’s Nelson Gardner in the first quarter Friday night in Spanish Fort. Williams blocked the punt and Curtis returned it 15 yards for a touchdown and a 28-0 lead. (Todd Stacey/Call News)
Saraland’s Ryan Williams (1) tries to pull away from Spanish Fort’s Josh Powell Friday night in Spanish Fort. Williams had six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-7 win. (Todd Stacey/Call News)
Saraland quarterback K.J. Lacey hurls a pass on the run during a 49-7 win over Spanish Fort. Lacey completed 13 of 18 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. (Todd Stacey/Call News)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
SPANISH FORT — Spanish Fort plays its football on The Hill. Saraland plays its version on the top of a mountain.
And from the vantage point of the rest of Class 6A, that mountain may be too towering to climb.
The No. 1-ranked Spartans slammed the Toros to the ground from the time the first ball went airborne and never let them up for air Friday night, scoring on their first five possessions while the defensive starters held Spanish Fort scoreless and to just 72 yards of total offense in a 49-7 rout.
Quarterback K.J. Lacey was 13-of-18 passing for 185 yards and three touchdowns, Ryan Williams caught six passes for 127 yards and two TDs and Saraland scored twice in the first quarter on blocked punts to inflict the worst loss in series history.
“Coming in, we not only wanted to win but dominate,” Williams said. “The defense shut them out and proved they are the best defense in the state. You couldn’t ask for a more complete game, especially against a rival.”
The Toros have been a longtime nemesis for the Spartans — they’re the only regular opponent with a winning record against Saraland — but trailed 42-0 at halftime and fans in Spanish Fort’s bulging bleachers began leaving at halftime instead of witnessing the remainder of the second-worst loss in school history. Only a 57-7 loss to McGill-Toolen in 2007 — in the program’s second varsity season — had a bigger margin of defeat.
“Our kids wanted to come out and play their best,” said Spartans coach Jeff Kelly, who is now 5-8 against the Toros. “They not only want to win, they want to play to a certain standard we need to play to. All three phases played at a high level. And there for a six- or seven-play stretch (in the first quarter), we were as sharp as we’ve been all year.”
Lacey threw TD passes of 23 and 34 yards to Williams, who enjoyed his best game of the season as a receiver.
Spanish Fort didn’t blitz as much as expected but Saraland found advantageous single coverage nonetheless.
“I figured I’d take some shots,” Lacey said. “I expected more blitzing. “Once we started getting out quick and showed them some RPOs (run-pass options), they backed off.”
Kelly said his team’s pace and multitude of formations made the Toros pull back their blitzing.
“We showed them different things, gave them some things to think about with formations and went tempo on them,” Kelly said. “We kept them off balance.”
Santae McWilliams added touchdown runs of 11 and 3 yards and Lacey threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Jordan Dees.
But the Spartans (4-0, 3-0 6A Region 1) — who are ranked No. 22 nationally in MaxPreps’ composite poll — raced to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter on two blocked punts recovered for touchdowns.
“That changed the complexion of the game,” Kelly said.
The first one came when linebacker Isaiah Bowie pushed the Toros’ upback into punter Newton Gardner and Zion Williams picked up the ball and returned it 30 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, Williams blocked another punt and Jamison Curtis returned it 15 yards for a 28-0 lead.
“That took away their hope,” Zion Williams said.
Spanish Fort (2-2, 2-1) avoided a shutout when linebacker Sterling Dixon, the state’s leading tackler in 6A, grabbed a fumble in mid-air and returned it 8 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter with Saraland’s backups in the game.
The Toros couldn’t budge the Spartans’ defense, which had allowed only 28 yards of total offense in wins over Murphy (54-6) and St. Paul’s (47-3) and gave up just 34 yards rushing and 72 yards of total offense through three quarters Friday night before Kelly got his backups on the field.
“We played lights out,” Curtis said. “We’ve grown into a unit and matured with each other. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to do great things. We weren’t perfect but we were flying around and had 11 people swarming to the ball. I don’t think we busted any assignments. We were super sharp.”
Saraland has won 28 of its last 30 games after an 0-2 start in 2021.
The Spartans had an overwhelming advantage in total offense — 329 yards to 72 — through three quarters and held Spanish Fort nearly 100 yards under its average on the ground (111). Saraland is now 65-0 since 2000 when scoring 40-plus points.
The Spartans scored on drives of 63, 71, 92, 70 and 79 yards and outgained the Toros 335 yards to 149. McWilliams had 53 yards on seven carries and C.D. Gill had four receptions for 59 yards.