The UTV 44 Friday Night Rivals was in Springhill for an all important 6A Region 1 matchup between the Daphne Trojans and the St. Paul’s Saints. Daphne need a win to keep any kind of playoff hopes alive, they haven’t missed the playoffs in 21 years. The Saints need a win to solidify their playoff spot which would be their first in 6A.
St. Paul’s would get the ball to start the game but they didn’t keep it very long, on the second play from scrimmage Daphne’s Christian Williams picked off the J Greene pass at the St. Paul’s 15 yard line and returned it to the 4 yard line. The Saints defense would put up a stand and keep the Trojans out of the end zone. Senior place kicker Diego Guajardo did get the Trojans on the board first with a 21 yard field goal with just under ten minutes left in the 1st period.
Later in the quarter, the Saints got ball after forcing the Trojans to punt, looking spark the offense senior A.J. Finley was brought in and lined up at running back. He ripped off a 31 yard run to get down to the Daphne 32 yard line. The Saints looked to be stopped inside Daphne territory facing a 4th down and nine yards to go. Head coach Steve Mask opted to go for the 1st down instead of bringing out his place kicker Jackson Fowler. Greene would take the snap and keep the ball picking up the 1st down and more. The 70 yard drive would eventually be capped off when junior running back Jordan Ingram got into the end zone from 4 yards out. The PAT was good and the Saints now took the lead 7-3 at the end of the 1st quarter.
Daphne struck back quickly, after taking the ensuing kickoff, senior quarterback Gage Bonner found junior receiver Darius Johnson for a 40 yard reception to get inside Saints territory. Bonner later would hit senior running back C.J. Young who would take off for a 30 yard touchdown catch. Guajardo would convert the PAT and the Trojans took the lead back 10-7 with just over 10 minutes left in the 1st half.
Late in the half, the Trojans would get the ball back after the Saints would turn it over on downs. Facing a 4th down with 3 yards to go, Greene could not complete a pass intended for sophomore receiver Javonte Graves-Billips. Taking the ball over on their own 44 yard line the Trojans drove the 54 yards on 10 plays. Young would catch his second touchdown pass, this time he went into the end zone from 28 yards out. Guajardo again converted the PAT and the Trojans extended their lead 17-7 with inside three minutes left in the 1st half.
Looking to cut that lead going into halftime, St. Paul’s would start their next drive on their own 20 yard line. Ingram helped the Saints offense when he opened up for a 28 yard run to get to the Daphne 45 yard line. The Saints continued to lean on him inside the red zone when we would find the end zone for his second touchdown of the night. With less than a minute left in the half, he ran the ball in from 6 yards out. Fowler would convert the PAT and the Saints went into halftime down 17-14 to the Trojans.
Daphne would get the ball to start the second half, but the drive was stalled at about midfield when they were forced to punt. Hoping to pin the Saints deep in their own territory, Finley had other ideas when he returned the punt all the way back to the Daphne 38 yard line. The Saints needed six plays for Finley to finish the drive when Greene hooked up with him for a 7 yard touchdown reception. The PAT was good and the Saints took over the lead for the 1st time since the start of the second quarter. They now lead 21-17 with just over five minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
The Saints’ Finley would strike again, this time on defense. Finley would pick off Bonner and set the Saints up at their own 34 yard line. Three plays later, Ingram would then have his biggest run of the night, getting into the end zone from 52 yards out. The PAT was good and the Saints extended their lead 28-17 with just over three minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
On the ensuing drive by the Trojans, they looked to be stopped by the Saints defense facing a 4th down with 6 yards to go. Head Coach Kenny King to his shot with the offense and it paid off as well when Bonner hit sophomore receiver Kayden Blackwell for 21 yard reception to not only pick up the first down but get all the way down to the Saints 19 yard line. Bonner would then find Christian Williams for the rest of the way for the 20 yard touchdown catch. The PAT was good and at the end of the 3rd quarter the Saints led 28-24.
The Trojans looked as the ball was bouncing their way, literally when Daphne’s junior defensive back picked off a pass from Greene after it bounced off junior Bill Johnson. Daphne’s Bonner quickly hit Darius Johnson for another long reception; this one was for 57 yards. The Saints defense were backed up to their own end zone when senior safety Yates Grehan probably made his biggest play of the season when he picked off Bonner’s pass at the three yard line and ran it out the Saints own 26 yard line. The Saints could not convert the turnover into points but it did eat up some valuable clock time as the Saints would eventually have to punt the ball back to the Trojans giving them another shot at winning the game.
Daphne would get the ball with 1:31 left in the game and starting from their own 15 yard line following the St. Paul’s punt. On the very first play of the series, Bonner dumped the ball off to Young who would end up taking it all the way the end zone for an 85 yard touchdown reception. The touchdown would eventually be called back when Daphne was called for holding and the Saints were called for defensive facemask. The offsetting penalties negated the play all together. After that the Trojans could not move the ball at all and would end up turning the ball over on downs when Bonner could not complete a pass attempt to Christian Williams. The Saints would kneel on the ball and take the 28-24 win over the Trojans.
Daphne falls to 4-5 on the year and 3-4 in the region. The loss by the Trojans will all but eliminate them from any playoff spot. The will finish the season out as they will host the Blount Leopards who are coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss the undefeated Saraland Spartans.
The Saints improve to 6-3 on the year and 5-2 in the region. The win secured the Saints first ever playoff appearance in class 6A. They will finish out their 2018 regular season as they will host Robertsdale and then prepare for a 1st round road trip for the playoffs.
Friday Night Rivals will stay 6A region 1 as the two top teams from the Region close their season out. The two teams are ranked #2 and #3 in the top ten and both teams have secured a playoff spot that will be a first round home game, but for this game the region title is on the line as the Spanish Fort Toros take on the undefeated Saraland Spartans kick off will be 7PM on UTV44.