West Florida’s Marquise Ross tip toes through traffic Friday while playing the Dolphins in Gulf Breeze. West Florida beat Gulf Breeze 27-7.
So far this season, teams have had a hard time slowing down the Gulf Breeze offense.
The Dolphins entered Friday night’s showdown against West Florida averaging 37 points per game. Gulf Breeze’s lowest scoring output of the season was 25 points.
The Jaguars set out to change that, and did so emphatically, forcing five turnovers and allowing the Dolphins to cross the goal line only once in a dominant 27-7 win to spoil the Gulf Breeze homecoming.
“Everybody is saying we lost everybody from our offense and our offense made our team, but our defense has always been good,” West Florida senior defensive back Dakota Milstead said. “Yeah, it was a statement because Gulf Breeze is ranked high with their offense and they have a fast-paced offense and we hadn’t seen that yet this year.
“It was time to make a point about our defense.”
The point is that the Jags’ defense is pretty good — and really opportunistic.
Gulf Breeze (2-5, 1-3) was able to get its offense going several times Friday night, driving into West Florida territory three times in the first half. But the Jags (6-1, 4-0) were always there to make a play when it was needed most.
The Dolphins had three turnovers on downs in the first half — all three of them coming in West Florida territory. And another turnover — a fumble — came on the Jags’ goal line.
“The more I watched film on Gulf Breeze’s offense, the more impressed I got and our defense just did a great job,” West Florida coach Harry Lees said. “They bent and bent and bent, but they didn’t break. I can’t say enough about our defense, they kept fighting and making turnovers.
“It’s really amazing what our defense did to that team, because that team is well-coached and they play hard. Our guys just came up with a great plan and we executed.”
Gulf Breeze shot itself in the foot repeatedly in the first half, and the Jags were more than willing to make them pay for it.
The Dolphins had three turnovers in the first two quarters, and West Florida turned that into a 13-0 halftime lead.
Gulf Breeze’s first turnover not only led to West Florida points, but took potential points off the scoreboard for the Dolphins.
After driving down to the West Florida goal line, tailback Josh Irby fumbled at the 5 yard line and West Florida recovered at the 10 yard line.
The Jags were able to flip the field and ended up having to punt the ball over to the Dolphins. But Jacob Kubik muffed the punt and West Florida recovered at the 23 yard line. Just a few plays later, the Jags took a 6-0 lead on a 4-yard TD pass from R.J. Lewis to Keandre Prim. The snap on the PAT was high, and the kick never got off as the Jags held on to the 6-0 lead.
The turnover bug struck again for the Dolphins right before the half when Tyler Phelps dropped back to pass and was intercepted by Victor Hill on a ball out in the flat. Hill actually had one arm pinned behind his back when he snagged the one-handed interception and returned it down to the 22-yard line. Five plays later, Kalia Davis pounded it in from a yard out to extend the lead to 13-0.
“It was huge. It was a real big confidence booster,” Lees said of getting the TD right before the half.
That momentum carried into the Jags’ first drive of the second half as Lewis connected with Damond Johnson for a 45-yard gain before hitting Prim for a 17-yard score to stake the Jags out to a 20-0 lead.
On the Jags’ next possession, Lewis and Johnson hooked up again, this time for a 44-yard touchdown pass to all but put it away.