It took over 365 days before the Gulf Breeze Dolphins would realize their goal, but it was not an easy task to get there in the first place.
Monday night Gulf Breeze had to win two quarters, not games, of football in hopes of obtaining the District 2-6A football runner-up spot.
Not only the GBHS do that, but in the process showed a lot of unity and fortitude instilled in them by head coach Chris Nemith and his staff. Unfortunately Nemith was not in attendance due to the passing of his sister over the weekend.
The first quarter saw T.J. Brubaker kick the Dolphins past Pace with a 31 yard field goal with 1.1 seconds remaining on the clock to seal a 3-0 win.
Then it was Brubaker again as time expired kicking a 25 yard field goal with 9.4 seconds remaining to give Gulf Breeze a 10-7 win and the title of district runner up and a meeting with District 1-6A champion Pine Forest on Nov. 13.
“I am speechless,” said Mike Spencer, the Dolphins offensive coordinator who called the game from the Milton High press box. “The kids have fought hard all season and all of them have worked toward this goal.
“Tonight they did this for themselves and Coach Nemith.”
The scary part is they almost didn’t get the chance for the opportunity at all.
In the game against Milton the Dolphins were up 7-0 thanks to a Tristian Covell touchdown run, but they were forced to punt deep in their own territory after forcing Milton to turn the ball on downs.
Trey Wright was standing at the Dolphins 10 when he took the snap to put the ball away after Gulf Breeze was held to three and out by the Milton defense.
The snap came in low and suddenly the whistle blew before Wright could even get the kick away.
Apparently Wright’s knee touched the ground at the Dolphins 11 as he tried to catch the snap.
Milton would get the ball and in three plays Shemar Henderson would blast his way through the right side of the Dolphins defense to tie the game at 7-7 after Ben Coulter added the kick.
With 1:41 remaining on the clock the Panthers opted to try a squib kick and gave the Dolphins the ball 1-10 at their 33 with 1:39 seconds remaining.
As the Dolphins started their drive there were whispers among the coaching staff of how far could Brubaker kick on the damp Bermuda grass at Hurley Manning Field?
But they didn’t really need to worry as with 9.4 second remaining, Cole Sheppard leaped between two Milton defenders and hauled in a Tristian Covell 25 yard pass to give the Dolphins first and goal at the Panthers 8.
Following a Gulf Breeze timeout, Brubaker was sent out to attempt his second game winning field goal, this time from 25 yards out, and split the uprights with ease.
“I had 53 yards in my pocket,” said Brubaker after the game. “But the second field goal was definitely a lot easier than the first one I kicked tonight.
“When I was out there I just remembered what my coaches have always told me to do and that is keep my head down and make the play.”
Brubaker talked about the work the Dolphins had put into this season as a team.
“We did this for each other and our town,” Brubaker said. “We started this 365 days ago on the Saturday after we lost the last game of the season to Navarre.
“Now all of that hard work and dedication has paid off and we persevered through all the ups and downs this season.”
Gulf Breeze did have to make one final stop as the Panthers had 5.5 seconds on the clock with the ball at their 20 yard line, but Aubrey Williams pass to Marquise McRoy ran out the clock despite him taking a pass into the flat and taking it to near midfield when he was finally brought down.
Even though this game was not for the district title, many felt the spirit of 2003 when the Dolphins won a district title in a shootout that involved Bay and Navarre.
In that game, the Dolphins rallied back from 10 points down and eventually won the quarter when Chase Griffin kicked a 49 yard field goal to set up a quarter between Navarre and the Dolphins, which Gulf Breeze won outright for the district title.
Statistically in two quarters of play Covell led the Dolphins in rushing with 63 yards while throwing for an additional 66 yards.