Gulf Breeze High School staged a late comeback in its game against West Florida High School last Friday night, but was stopped-short by the solid Jaguar defense for a 42-33 loss — its first of the season.
The Dolphins got off to a sluggish start on defense, discernible from the three unanswered touchdowns that were put-up by an eager Jaguar offense in the first half. West Florida got started out-of-the-gate on their first possession and scored 14 points within 5 minutes.
The opening touchdown of the night came off an 88-yard pass from Trevor Jordan to Damond Johnson that saw Johnson catch the ball at the Dolphin’s 45-yard line and break a diving tackle from Matthew Demahy on his way to the end zone.
A miscue in the Gulf Breeze offense contributed to West Florida’s early lead after senior Tyler Phelps pitched the ball to Tyler Dittmer on second down, who fumbled before diving on top of it at the Dolphin’s 13-yard line. Tre Theriot was eventually forced to punt to the opposition’s 40-yard line, but Amir McDaniel fielded the ball for the Jaguars and ran it back 60 yards to double West Florida’s lead with 8:16 left in the first quarter.
After failing to score at the end of the first quarter with a 27-yard field goal attempt from Spencer Wirth, the Dolphins would break the 21-0 deficit with 4 minutes before halftime after Parker Baynes hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Phelps.
However, the momentum held by West Florida in the first half quickly shifted toward Gulf Breeze in the second after the Dolphins answered the Jaguar’s initial touchdown with 26 points in-a-row. Phelps would cross into the end zone on a quarterback-sneak play to get the team started, but had the extra point blocked by West Florida’s Antonio Moultrie.
Gulf Breeze did well to rally at the end of the game and was back within striking distance 35-33 after Baynes pulled-in a 15-yard pass from Phelps to put the Dolphins on the 5-yard line. Covell would score on the following play after a penalty resulted in the ball being placed half the distance to the goal. With 24 seconds left to play the Dolphins were forced to try a two-point conversion in order to tie the game, but Baynes was wrapped-up by Keyon Helton behind the line.
Gulf Breeze seemed to be on the precipice of breaking another long-standing losing record, but the onside kick favored West Florida and went straight to Bryant Johnecheck – who settled the match with his first kickoff return for a touchdown to make it 42-33.
“We were working on hands team this week and, you know, you’re supposed to take it and fall; but I don’t know I saw the opening and there was no one there so I guess my instincts just took over and I ran.” Johnecheck said smiling.
Gulf Breeze takes on Milton High School tonight in the team’s first district game of the season and will be looking to bounce-back with a win after the bittersweet loss to West Florida.
Milton is coming off of a close match of their own against Pine Forest High School that they dropped 23-20 in overtime. The conference matchup kicks off at 7 p.m. at Gulf Breeze.