Dinner conversations haven’t been that different in the Pollard-Clayton household this week.
The usual banter and family talk between Pine Forest head coach Jerry Pollard and son-in-law Bobby Clayton are still there, even knowing Clayton’s undefeated Gulf Breeze Dolphins are coming to town for a Friday-night showdown.
“He’s still my father-in-law at the end of the day,” Clayton said. “After Friday night, he’s still my father-in-law and I’m still his son-in-law. Nothing changes, whether I win or he wins.”
Clayton served as Pine Forest’s offensive coordinator under Pollard prior to taking the helm at Gulf Breeze this offseason. It was there he met his would-be wife, Mindy, who happened to be Jerry’s daughter.
Though they still talk on a near-daily basis, Pollard and Clayton refuse to focus on the family side of Friday’s game.
After all, both of their teams are still undefeated.
“It’s strictly Pine Forest against Gulf Breeze,” Pollard said. “Our kids want to be 4-0 and their kids want to be 4-0. It’s all about football.”
It’s easy to notice Gulf Breeze’s improvement in three games under Clayton.
Their high-flying offense has scored in bunches thus far, ending a nine-game losing streak to Catholic in the process. But Pollard has noted a more subtle change in his son-in-law’s Dolphins.
“They seem to be playing really hard,” Pollard said. “They act like they’ve got a chance to win. I think they’re learning how to win and doing a good job of it.”
Knocking off Choctaw, Catholic and Northview has been an impressive start for Gulf Breeze, but Pine Forest will likely present a faster, more explosive challenge, as Clayton knows well.
But Clayton said his Dolphins won’t be timid as he continues to exceed expectations in his first season as head coach at his alma mater.
“We’ve put up a lot of points offensively and we’ve got a good defense that’s been doing some good things and getting takeaways,” Clayton said. “If we win the takeaway battle, it could be interesting.”
Saulsberry feeling fine, ready to ‘execute and dominate’
Xavier Saulsberry has been dinged up so far this season, but the reigning PNJ Offensive Player of the Year isn’t slowing down.
A high-ankle sprain, which knocked him out of the Eagles’ opener against Pensacola High and forced him out for a drive against Pace, is slowly, but surely healing back to strength.
“It’s feeling better than it did when it first happened,” Saulsberry chuckled. “I just kept icing it so that I could get back. I know the team needs me, but I need the team also.”
That could be bad news for Gulf Breeze as Saulsberry looks forward to running his offense at full-speed.
“We’re gonna have to execute and dominate,” Saulsberry said. “Play Eagle football. We can’t get out of ourselves and rush ourselves. If we do that we should be able to win this game.”
Want to go?
Who: Gulf Breeze Dolphins (3-0) vs. Pine Forest Eagles (3-0)
What: Matchup of unbeaten teams and playoff rematch from 2015 season
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Lon Wise Stadium
Radio: AM 1450, FM 101.1 ESPN Pensacola/PNJ Game of the Week