Champions Challenge: Game 1 Recap

Champions Challenge: Game 1 Recap

The Champions Challenge kicked off preseason football in the state of Alabama on Friday night, and a pair of teams with big expectations put on a show. Spanish Fort and Muscle Shoals went back-and-fourth for the majority of the game before the Toros took a late lead and the youngsters got a chance to play.

After a slow start to the season, and the game, Friday night – both Spanish Fort (Ala.) and Muscle Shoals (Ala.) did their part to make the 2012 season kickoff the right way.

Spanish Fort won the game 33-22 in the end, but both programs left the Montgomery's Cramton Bowl feeling like 2012 could be a year to remember.

The starters for each squad played the majority of the contest, but one could sense that the backups were going to get their shot when Spanish Fort went ahead for good. With just under nine minutes remaining in the game, down 22-19, running back Sammy Tolbert made the most of his final carry on the way to a 29-yard score. He not only finished the day over 100 yards, but he capped a victory for the Toros, who look to make another deep postseason run.

Before the final score, things see-sawed to the point that the neutral fans was on the edge of his/her seat. Spanish Fort began the game with a clock-draining drive – establishing its best player in the process. Alabama commit and senior wide receiver Deon Johnson caught a pair of passes to begin the drive, helping the Toros reach the red zone in a hurry. From there, however, Muscle Shoals stole the momentum with a goal-line stand – stopping Johnson before he could cross the plane on a running play.

The team's traded short possessions for the remainder of The Opening quarter, but a receiver not named Johnson – and not on the Spanish Fort roster – made the big play of the day to break the ice. Javian Ramson hauled in a 35-yard score from quarterback Ryan Ware, but not before juggling the ball while simultaneously trying to keep his feet in bounds near the back pylon.

Spanish Fort answered immediately, as Johnson brought back the ensuing kickoff 72 yards, nearly to pay-dirt. He seemed to be bottled up just 10 yards after gathering the ball, but somehow powered through several tacklers before the footrace began. Tolbert would cap the drive with a short run just three plays later.

The teams traded end zone trips once more before the break as Muscle Shoals carried a 15-12 lead at the half.

Each offense was again slow in the third quarter, until Spanish Fort again got a boost from Johnson. The senior again lined up in the backfield before taking a toss-sweep 2 yards into the end zone. He finished the night with 186 total yards.

Shoals moved the ball as the third quarter became the fourth, and it was able to take the lead for a final time on a Weston Allen carry.

After Tolbert put Spanish Fort up for good and the backups came in, freshman quarterback Tyler Johnston impressed everybody in attendance with his running ability. He scored the game's final points on a juke-and-jive 36-yard keeper.

With action coming in bunches, several defensive players had standout games. Spanish Fort had a pair of tacklers over double-digits in senior defensive backs Kylan Cotton and Jonathan Cook, who is committed to Nebraska.

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