Fairhope, Ala. – The Fairhope Pirates have survived perhaps the toughest road for any team in the Alabama high school playoffs, and they'll need their good fortune to continue tonight with Prattville visiting town.
Led by senior quarterback Chase Domino, Fairhope came back multiple times in the closing minutes to beat Auburn 43-42 in round 1 on the road. Domino threw a touchdown pass and two-point conversion with less than 30 seconds remaining for the win.
"You can't live through many of those games, as a lot of the parents say when they come up to you," Domino said. "It was very exciting being the first round of the playoffs, knowing it's going to get more and more like that.
"Knowing that it could be the last drive of my career was definitely a shocker," he added. "It put some realism in it being a senior. It was fun. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it."
Fairhope was the three-seed in Region 2 after an 8-2 regular season with losses to Daphne and McGill, two of the top teams in the state this year. Auburn was the runner-up in Region 3 at 8-1. Following the win at Auburn, Fairhope returned home for a game against Region 1 winner Blount.
Again the Pirates found a way to win, intercepting a pass near midfield in the final minute clinging to a 24-20 lead.
"It's really just the toughness of our team," Domino said. "I feel like we've been working really hard, we know our goals and that those goals are in front of us for the taking. Our team is tough and is able to finish, so now we're just finishing our season like we're finishing these games."
Fairhope had jumped out to a 24-6 lead before Blount scored two late touchdowns to make it a ball game.
"The play-action pass was working pretty well," Domino explained. "We were moving the ball down the field with the run and the pass. We just found a weak spot in their defense and we attacked that. We were able to move the ball down the field, and our defense helped us out with field position. We also went in the Wildcat with Nate Andrews in the backfield as the quarterback."
Prattville, the state champions from 2006-2008, defeated Daphne last Friday to advance to the third round and will travel to Fairhope. The Lions are loaded with talent once again and may be the favorites to win the state championship the season.
"We know that they're a very tough and physical team, they're very fast, and a very skillful team," Domino said of Prattville. "We just know that we're going to have to be more physical than them and tougher than them. Like you said, they've got a big reputation. What we've been preaching all week is to not let their reputation beat us and to go out there and let it be two teams on the field at that time and on that day. We're going to go out and play with everything we've got."
Prattville defeated Daphne 13-3, while Daphne beat Fairhope 45-24 on Oct. 14. Domino said it was alarming at first to hear that Daphne had scored just three points. However, the film showed that the Lions are beatable and that Daphne did have some success offensively.
"Before I saw the film I thought that we were going to have a tough time moving the ball," Domino explained. "But really Daphne moved the ball. They had turnovers and they couldn't finish with points on the board. They got into the red zone and had to settle for field goals and missed those opportunities. We're just going to have to finish our drives. Daphne has a very good offensive team and to hold them to three points is a tough thing to do, but we preach finishing when we get in the red zone. So I think we'll have a pretty good chance of scoring a few more points."
Domino is an accurate passer, good athlete and has solid size at 6-3, 190. However, he doesn't have any college offers yet and recruiting is slow right now.
"I had a lot of letters from Alabama and Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee State, Kentucky, Memphis, South had a little interest in me for a little bit," he explained. "I haven't really gotten anything from them lately. Mississippi College... Just a few little calls here and there from Coach (Renard) Ellis. That's really about it."
For now, Fairhope head coach David Faulkner is happy to have him on his team.
"He's getting a little interest on the side from those mid-conference people, nothing big," Faulkner explained. "He's a dime-a-dozen when you look at him on the chart. I think where the people miss out are the he's at the top of the chart when it comes to being a winner, having character and being a leader.
"Chase is a winner, and he's a special person," he added. "We're very lucky for him to be leading our football team."
Top Games Around the State…
In 6A football this time of year all of the games are good. McGill visits Central-Phenix City, Prattville visits Fairhope, top-ranked Mountain Brooks travels to Oxford and Hoover visits undefeated Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
In 5A the game of the night will be in Mobile as FSU commitment Jameis Winston and #1 Hueytown travel to St. Paul's. Hueytown is undefeated while St. Paul's only loss of the year was to 6A opponent Fairhope.
Also in 5A, class of 2013 Auburn commitment Dee Liner of Muscle Schools visits Briarwood Christian. Liner could possibly be the top prospect in the state next season.
4A features the only battle of undefeated teams as Bibb County looks to upset visiting Jackson.
Friday Night Schedule. All games 7 p.m. Central
Pickens County (11-1) at Sweet Water (9-3)
Maplesville (12-0) at Linden (11-1)
Collinsville (11-1) at Ragland (12-0)
Marion County (11-1) at Donoho (11-1)
Elba (12-0) at Flomaton (11-1)
American Christian (11-1) at Leroy (8-4)
Tanner (12-0) at Woodland (8-4)
Lineville (9-3) at Fultondale (10-2)
Handley (12-0) at Washington County (10-2)
Leeds (10-2) at Clay County (11-1)
Piedmont (12-0) at Rogers (10-2)
Lauderdale County (11-1) at Madison Academy (10-2)
Dadeville (12-0) at UMS-Wright (8-4)
Jackson (12-0) at Bibb County (12-0)
Anniston (8-4) at Fayette County (9-3)
Deshler (11-1) at Oneonta (10-2)
Spanish Fort (9-3) at Vigor (10-2)
Hueytown (12-0) at Saint Paul's (11-1)
Hartselle (12-0) at Center Point (11-1)
Muscle Shoals (11-1) at Briarwood Christian (11-1)
McGill-Toolen (11-1) at Central-Phenix City (10-2)
Prattville (9-2) at Fairhope (10-2)
Mountain Brook (12-0) at Oxford (11-1)
Hoover (11-1) at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (12-0)