In a back-and-forth high scoring game from the get go, Fairhope trailed 34-21, took 35-34 lead only to see it relinquished with 42 seconds to go as Auburn High School quarterback Cameron Luper had taken his team down the field for a touchdown and two-point conversion for a 42-35 lead for the Tigers.
However, with a kickoff return past midfield with a facemask penalty tacked on, Fairhope had a short field and to work with and two timeouts. With 26 seconds remaining senior quarterback Chase Domino connected with junior Nate Andrews to cut the lead to 42-41 when Fairhope head coach David Faulkner put the game in the hands of his seniors.
"We come down there and we scored," Faulkner explained. "We came over as an offense, and we were deciding if we wanted to go for two or kick it. The seniors, a couple of them said ‘Let's go for two.' I called all of the seniors over and I said, ‘What do ya'll want to do? It's your team.' They wanted to go for two. We gave them a play and they went out and executed it and did a great job."
While several of the underclassmen including Andrews, who had just caught three consecutive passes to get the Pirates in position to tie or take the lead, wanted to go to overtime, senior lineman Kyron Samuels wanted to go ahead and win the game.
"He looked us in our eyes, and I said, ‘Coach, let's go get it.' Some of the younger guys were like, ‘Nah, let's be safe and go for the extra point.' I was like, ‘No, we're about win this game, and I believe it.' Coach put it on the seniors' backs and we produced it."
The two-point conversion pass was good and Fairhope held on for victory.
"I've never been a part of anything like that," Samuels said. "That was amazing, but I think it shows the heart of this team, the coaches and the fans as well. We had a packed stadium four hours away from home. I think it sums up Fairhope in a sense that we're a unified community and that we don't quit.
"He's a players' coach," Samuels added of Faulkner. "He's hard. Don't get me wrong. He'll get on your butt. I'd do anything for him, and he'd do anything for us. When it came down to it I guess we were the coaches in that situation."
Samuels began the season playing center to attract more college attention, but has played left guard down the stretch next to Southern Miss commit Robert Leff at left tackle. Samuels has also played defensive tackle, which wasn't easy against Auburn and a run-threat quarterback like Luper.
"I've played a little bit (of defense) in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but this year I've been playing both ways on the field the whole season," Samuels explained. "I've enjoyed it. It's a little tiring. I'm not going to lie, but that's what football is all about – toughness. I feel like I've just got to fight through it and make plays.
"(Luper) was in the pocket one second and the next second he's 20 yards down field. But when it came down to it, we did it. He wasn't going to stop us from getting the ‘W.'"
The upcoming contest won't get much easier for Fairhope as the Pirates take on Blount, which is 10-1 on the season. The Leopards only loss was a meaningless game in week 10 after they had already won the region championship.
"We're playing Blount High School at home and my uncle Chris Samuels is the offensive coordinator," Samuels said. "We've been jawing back and forth for a couple of weeks, and actually since the beginning of the season hoping we'd get this match-up. I'm very excited to get out there and compete. They have a great team and I know that because I've seen them play tons of times. I know their game plan, they know our game play, so it's going to be a battle.
"We're still going to talk during the week," Samuels added of his uncle, a six-time Pro-Bowler with the Washington Redskins. "He texted me on Thursday saying that we'd better win so we could play. We're going to jaw back and forth this week like we always do. When it comes down to Thursday and Friday we won't talk too much. We'll just shake hands. After the game, whoever wins and loses, we'll still be uncle and nephew. So it'll be fine."
Asked who the family will be rooting for, Samuels said, "My family better be rooting for Fairhope. We might be 50/50."
But that's when Kyron Samuels' mother interjected. "It better not be 50/50," she said. "It better be 90/10."
As far as recruiting, Samuels said he isn't any closer to making a decision.
"Recruiting is going well," he noted. "I've pretty much decided that I'm going to pick on signing day and wait it out. I know the question is coming, so my favorites are South Alabama, Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn and a whole bunch of schools. I still haven't gotten any closer to making a decision. When the time comes I'll let everybody know about it."