They didn’t need any luck last Friday, but the Gulf Breeze Dolphins may have felt some magic heading into the District 2-6A championship vs. Navarre.
The Dolphins looked good, and in turn, played good in a 31-28 win over their arch-rival Navarre — which had won the nine previous meetings.
Fans had seen a white, gold and navy jersey/pants combination on the Dolphins this year, but Friday Gulf Breeze hit the gridiron in a matte-gray top and bottom get-up.
To add to the hype, the Dolphins were surprised with their brand-new outfits just hours before kick off at a Gulf Breeze High pep rally.
Team captains — Cole Sheppard, Tyler Phelps, Ben Dobry and Logan Green — were the first players to get in on the secret, and were instructed to glam up in the new uniforms before being introduced to the crowd and their teammates.
“We got a little surprise at the pep rally — it was wild,” Sheppard said, following his three-touchdown performance vs. Navarre. “Coach (Bobby) Clayton had a little something special for us to get ready for the game. We’ve been working hard and coach promised to reward our hard work. It was really exciting when us captains walked out into the middle (of the pep rally). Everyone went wild.”
QB gets chance to grab picks on defense
There’s been plenty of highlights this season for Tate High’s quarterback, Jake Henry.
The senior leads the Aggies in rushing and has combined for 30 touchdowns this year, while throwing just two interceptions.
But after Friday’s win over Pine Forest, Henry also shined on defense and has now taken away as many interceptions as he has thrown this year.
“Coaches told me I’ll be playing defense … so I’ve been practicing it,” Henry said following last week’s win. “It feels good to be back out there.”
Henry may have caught flashbacks to his junior season, where he was arguably the area’s top two-way threat.
Henry grabbed five picks last year as a defensive back, while leading the Aggies in receiving (902 yards, 10 TDs).
With an open week this Friday and the playoffs two weeks away, it looks like Henry won’t be done with his work as a defender.
“He is the best player in the area; he is not going to leave the field,” Tate coach Jay Lindsey said. “Everybody can talk about their guys, but I’ve got the best player in the area. Jake Henry is a stinkin’ competitor and that’s what happens.”
Milton-Pace share admiration for rivalry
It is no secret, the Pace-Milton rivalry is as intense as any in the area.
What’s very impressive about the rivalry is the good spirit it carries.
Though things may get heated in the days leading up to kick off, players, coaches and fans share mutual respect following each rivalry game and eagerly await the next year of the tradition.
The last two meetings have come down to special teams in the closing seconds of the game, as Milton won in 2015 with a time-expiring field goal before Pace stuffed a two-point conversion to win the Battle for the Bronze Helmet this year.
Though it was a sour outcome for the Panthers, they showed regard to the Pace Patriots and their star running back Anthony Johnson Jr.
“(Johnson) is a Division I running back,” Milton head coach Chafan Marsh said. “He has done it all year long. Everybody Pace plays, Johnson runs the ball hard on them. He is a hard guy to defend.”
The win for Pace showed a fierce second half, as the Patriots rallied from a 14-point deficit.
Solid second halves have been a bit of a theme for Pace this year, as the Patriots clawed their way back in losses to strong area teams Navarre, Tate and Pine Forest.
“We’ve kind of been behind all year,” Pace coach Kent Smith said. “We’ve gone through so many injuries and that has caused our kids to adjust and play some different positions. The kids have worked hard all season.”