The Friday night lights always seem to shine brighter when it’s the PNJ / ESPN Pensacola game of the week.
This week’s showdown features the undefeated Gulf Breeze Dolphins (4-0) — hot off an upset win over Pine Forest — traveling to the West Florida Jaguars (2-2).
While the Dolphins have been busy shocking the area, the Jaguars have silently been rebounding from a Week 2 loss to Tate and a tough defeat that came down to the closing seconds against Kemper County (Mississippi).
But this Friday, nothing will hold the Jaguars focus more than their attempt to sink the Dolphins.
“Our kids are really excited, there is a lot of talk about how good Gulf Breeze is … and rightfully so,” said West Florida coach Harry Lees, who mentioned last Friday’s district win provided a sense of “relief” for the Jaguars. “(The Dolphins) did a good job in their win against Pine Forest and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. That alone gets our kids excited for Friday night.”
West Florida’s defense accounted for two pick-six plays last week, as Kalia Davis and Keyshawn Helton each came up with the big play for West Florida’s ‘D’.
The Jaguars have come to rely on a multitude of clutch defensive stops, and last Friday’s win over Mosley was no exception.
They’ll need that defensive swagger back tonight, and will try to ratchet up the intensity with Gulf Breeze and QB Tyler Phelps coming to town.
Phelps’ stats jump off the page, as he has compiled 917 yards and eight TDs through the air.
Phelps isn’t scared to run (71 yards, 4 TDs), and can extend passing plays with his mobility.
“That’s going to be one of the big keys to the game … our guys putting pressure on him (Phelps),” Lees said. “He’s (Phelps is) one of the top QBs in the area — right there with (Tate High’s) Jake Henry. Phelps has great touch and is a competitor. It’s a big test for us. Hopefully we learned a lot from our battle against Tate. (Gulf Breeze) is sorta like Tate, they have a lot of good players on offense and they definitely have a good trigger man.”
Fortunately for the Jags, defensive lineman Vidal Scott and Adarius McWilliams, plus linebackers Kalia Davis and Jaelyn Allen are eager to put pressure on the Dolphins signal caller.
Offensively, the Jag will aim to limit Gulf Breeze’s opportunities for turnovers.
The Dolphins secondary accounted for two picks in the fourth quarter to seal last week’s win over Pine Forest, and will get another chance to disrupt QB/receiver chemistry Friday night.
Led by Matt Demahy (three INTs), the Dolphins have rushed passers and jumped passing lanes for a total of nine interceptions on the year.
But West Florida may hold enough speed at receiver to break open the secondary, with speedy play makers like Damond Johnson, Keyshawn Helton and Devin Abrams.
ESPN Pensacola (101.1 FM; 1450 AM) will broadcast the game, which will kick off at 7 p.m. from Marlon Bullock Field on the campus of Woodham Middle.
PNJ/ ESPN Pensacola Game of the Week
Who: Gulf Breeze Dolphins and West Florida Jaguars
Where: Woodham Middle
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Gulf Breeze (4-0); West Florida (2-2)
Skinny: West Florida will need its tough defense to be sharper than ever as the Jaguars aim to earn two-straight wins with a victory over the undefeated Dolphins.
Radio broadcast: ESPN Pensacola (101.1 FM, 1450 AM)