GULF BREEZE — There were a lot of things that went into Fort Walton Beach’s 35-12 loss at Gulf Breeze on Friday night.
None were blatant, though, and the frustrating part of the loss ended up being its slow-burn nature; the Vikings didn’t seem truly out of it until Gulf Breeze went up 35-6 early in the fourth quarter.
“We came out pretty flat,” Fort Walton Beach coach Phillip Dorn said. “Gulf Breeze did a great job on both sides of the ball coming out with a lot of energy. If you can’t match that energy then you run into problems.”
Gulf Breeze (2-4 overall, 1-2 District 1-6A) put together a masterful drive on its first possession, eating up almost six minutes of clock capped by Leonard Brown's 5-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 3:15 left in the first quarter.
The Dolphins got on the board again two minute later after Caleb Jackson picked off a pass by Brady Bachmann to set up a 27-yard touchdown pass from Ryland McCurdy to Devon Baldwin for a 13-0 lead.
Fort Walton Beach (3-4, 1-3) managed to put points on the board thanks to senior kicker Joshua Brazzel, who connected on field goals of 33 and 41 yards to cut Gulf Breeze’s lead to 20-6 at halftime.
The Vikings’ best chance to get back in the game was on its first possession of the second half, when a drive stalled out at the Gulf Breeze 17 and Brazzel missed on a 34-yard field goal attempt. The Dolphins answered back with a touchdown on their next drive for a 28-6 lead.
Fort Walton Beach’s only touchdown would come on a 5-yard run by Jay Johnson-Jarrett late in the fourth quarter.
STAT OF THE NIGHT: -74
Fort Walton Beach was called for six penalties for 75 yards — not ideal but a major improvement over last week’s 16 penalties for 149 yards in a win over Mosley. Even from one week to the next, it showed the Vikings improved in at least one aspect of the game.
OFFENSIVE MVP: Brendan Robertson, WR, FWB
Robertson, 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, had arguably the best game of his career with 5 catches for 130 yards, including two catches of 40-plus yards. The senior showed the ability to get behind coverage and find space with safeties closing in and also was able to rack up plenty of yards after catches.
“I was getting out of my breaks really well,” Robertson said. “I had one I’d really like back, but it did seem like I was finding ways to get open.”
DEFENSIVE MVP: Walker Robinson, LB, FWB
Robinson, a junior who anchors Fort Walton's defense at middle linebacker, leads the Vikings in tackles and has been quietly anchoring things on that side of the ball all season.
He was in the mix again on Friday night with 2 tackles for loss, both in the second half. Robinson, 5-11 and 190 pounds, has shown a knack for almost always being around the ball and could end up with 100 tackles this season.
“It’s disappointing because we didn’t execute like we should have tonight,” Robinson said. “We need to get back to work and fix those mistakes.”
Dorn on the limited use of Jarrett-Johnson, the Vikings’ leading rusher.
Jarrett-Johnson didn’t play in the first half but started to get some carries late in the second half.
“He was hurt a little bit last week, so we held him back some,” Dorn said. “We started to use him a little bit in the second half to get him warmed up, he responded well so we started to use him a little more.”
Fort Walton Beach stays on the road, traveling to play unbeaten Booker T. Washington (6-0) in a District 1-6A matchup. Gulf Breeze travels to face Milton.