FORT WALTON BEACH -- Struggling to pull away from Gulf Breeze late in the third quarter of Friday night’s game at Joe Etheredge Stadium, Choctaw needed someone to step up and make a play.
Quint Gornto was that someone.
With Choctaw leading 18-14 late in the third, Gornto, a junior, broke free on a Gulf Breeze punt attempt and blocked the kick of Dolphins’ punter Trey Wright. As the ball rolled free, junior linebacker Sergio Castelan scooped it up and scampered seven yards for a backbreaking touchdown, the key play in Choctaw’s 31-14 win on Military Appreciation Night.
“Earlier in the game, they were blocking me and letting other guys go free,” said Gornto. “This time, they blocked them and I was turned loose. I didn’t think I was going to get there, but then I saw that he was taking a while to get it off. I kept going and got there.”
Gornto’s block and Castelan’s touchdown was the signature highlight of a furious Choctaw run that helped the Indians seize control of the game. Down 14-9 early in the third quarter, the Indians finished the game on a 22-0 run to earn a convincing 17-point victory.
The 22-point spurt included touchdown runs from senior Chase Whitehead and junior John Hicks. Hicks, who ran for 122 yards on 22 car-ries, scored from 15 yards out to give the Indians a 31-14 lead with nine minutes, 51 seconds to go in the game.
Choctaw’s late burst turned the tables on a Gulf Breeze team that stormed back from nine points down in the first half to take a brief lead. Dolphins’ QB Slade Jarmon, a junior, connected with WR Clay Moss on a pair of touchdowns sandwiched around the halftime break. The first connection, from 16 yards out, cut the Choctaw lead to 9-7 with 43 seconds left in the second quarter while the second TD pass, a 30-yarder, put the Dolphins up 14-9 two minutes into the second half.
The Indians were able to regain momentum, though, as Whitehead capped a six-play, 70-yard drive with a four-yard plunge to give the In-dians the lead for good. Whitehead scored twice on the night, including a two-yard TD in the first quarter.
After a 45-yard field goal from Carlos Leon, Choctaw led 18-14, setting the stage for Castelan’s touchdown after the Gornto block.
“It felt great,” said Castelan. “I saw the ball after the block, and I just wanted to do something to help the team. That was my chance.”
A dominant second-half defensive showing helped Choctaw earn the win, as the Indians sacked Jarmon eight times after the break, 11 times on the night. Defensive lineman Daniel Moon and Corey Collins each dropped Jarmon twice.
On the night, Choctaw QB Garrison Floyd completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 130 yards, and he also rushed 13 times for 72 yards.
Now 3-0, Choctaw will visit Niceville on Friday night.