The Gulf Breeze Dolphins (8-1) take care of the football, excel in the pass game and win football games.
The also have taken Santa Rosa County by storm this year and shocked the area. For the first time since 1989, the Gulf Breeze Dolphins are district champions after a 31-28 win over Navarre, the final step of sweeping District 2-6A.
“I’m still pinching myself to see if this is real,” said first-year head coach Bobby Clayton, in the 16th year of his coaching career. “We came to Navarre and beat ’em here. This is what we’ve talked about since I was hired as a coach in February. This is what Friday night is all about.”
Their first win over Navarre in nine years, the Dolphins have made “streak snapping” a trend this year after avoiding 10-straight losses to both Catholic and Pace this year.
Friday’s atmosphere was beyond electric at Navarre, and the game was never one-sided with five lead changes.
Gulf Breeze senior wide receiver Cole Sheppard was one of the game’s biggest heroes, as he hauled in three touchdown passes from Tyler Phelps, including a 12-yard slant for a go ahead score with under two minutes to play.
“There is no words to describe how this feels, we’ve put in a lot of work and coach Clayton has whipped us into shape – we got to where we needed to be and it showed (Friday night),” Sheppard said, calling Friday’s game the most memorable of his career. “(On the go-ahead TD) we knew we had to have a play. Coach always says big players make big plays in big games. Tyler (Phelps) gave me the signal and that was it.”
Trailing by three with two timeouts, the Raiders still oozed confidence and strung together a strong drive – including a 15-yard gain by Michael Carter on 4th and 4 – to get inside the red zone.
After a pass interference call in the end zone, the Raiders worked from the 10-yard line with eight seconds to play.
But the pressure appeared to be too much, as miscommunication rendered a fumble and ultimately a five-yard loss as time expired.
The victory quadrupled Gulf Breeze’s win total from last season, and the district champ Dolphins will host Tate in the first round of the playoffs following a game against Crestview in Week 11.
The Raiders will face another challenge next week against Niceville, before traveling to face Escambia in the first step of the postseason.
“Navarre has got a good defense and they’ve got a lot of heart,” Clayton said. “We knew they could bring it up front, and they played their secondary off. We took shots when we had them. Tyler (Phelps) put up some great plays when we needed to charge up. It was just an outstanding game.”