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Preview of Week #1: #2 Spanish Fort Toros vs. #3 Saraland Spartans

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#2 Spanish Fort ( 8-1 ; 7-0 ) vs. #3 Saraland Spartans ( 9-0 ; 7-0 )

It’s the final week of the 2018 high school football season. For some teams, their season ends this week while others are preparing for their second season, the playoff season. This week Friday Night Rivals will showcase two teams that have not only secured a playoff spot but a first-round home game. This week’s game between the #2 ranked Spanish Fort Toros and the #3 ranked Saraland Spartans will determine the region champion for 6A Region 1.

Ben Blackmon and the Toros are looking to win their second consecutive region title and the sixth title in eight years. Toros starting quarterback Jackson Burkhalter was sidelined for the rest of the season after their week #7 victory over St. Paul’s due to a torn ACL. Sophomore Nick Passarelli has started the last three games and thrown 6 touchdown passes in those games. The offense is averaging 30.4 points per game, but they are heading up against one of the toughest defenses in 6A. The defense continues to make big plays for the Toros, as they, as they have only given up 20 points or less in the last seven games, since giving up 48 to McGill during week #1. They have pitched three shutouts in the last four weeks, giving them an average of only giving up 11.7 points per game.

Jeff Kelly and his Saraland Spartans are coming off their toughest test yet, as they needed overtime to defeat the Blount Leopards 20-17. The offense is led by first year starter, junior quarterback Brett Nezat. He is leading an offense loaded with weapons, that is averaging 37.1 points per game, but this same offense was held to only one first down in the first half by the Leopards defense. The Spartans have a trio of running backs at their disposal with junior Rashawn McAlpine and seniors Jalen Pugh and Karie White. On the outside, they have receivers like seniors Jay Williams and Daniel Taylor along with senior Cordale Flott who plays defensive back as well. The defense is still one of the best in 6A as they are only giving up 7 points per game. Junior linebacker Jonathan Chaney and senior defensive back Jayden Roberson have help lead a defense that has pitched four shutouts on the season. The 17 points given up to Blount is the second most this season after giving up 19 to Daphne in Week #3.

These two teams have only met six times with Spanish Fort holding the edge with a 5-1 record. The Toros won last year’s game 34-7 and have actually won the last 4 meetings. Saraland last defeat Spanish Fort in 2014 14-10, which was the semi-finals of the 6A playoffs, that win sent Saraland the state championship game. It’s a winner take all for 6A Region 1, kickoff is set for Friday at 7pm on UTV44.