FORT WALTON BEACH - For the first time, the Okaloosa County middle school football championship was decided with a playoff system, culminating in Thursday night’s title game between Shoal River and Bruner at Steve Riggs Stadium.
And the Bruner Spartans delivered a performance worthy of the occasion.
Behind a stifling defense that forced two turnovers and running back Keyandre Fuller’s three touchdowns, Bruner completed a perfect 9-0 season with a 21-0 win over Shoal River to capture the county championship.
“This was just fantastic,” said Bruner head coach Dean Vinson, referring to the county championship game. “For the first time, it really felt like an event. To have this game, for these two teams and fans to create this atmosphere…It’s really awesome for Okaloosa County football.”
Vinson’s perspective is that of a coach that watched his team finish a dominating season, one that ended in a shutout thanks to a defense that only allowed Shoal River to cross midfield twice. The Spartan defense harassed Shoal River QB Rusty Moorer all night, sacking him three times and forcing an interception. On Shoal River’s final play of the night, a desperation fourth-and-17 from midfield, Bruner linebacker Ajani Huyjhue drilled Moorer from the blind side, forcing a fumble that recovered by Bruner defensive lineman Hunter Merrill. Huyjhue’s big hit was the exclamation point on a big win, and it was indicative of the Bruner defense’s relentless pressure throughout.
“Defensively, we’ve grown a little all year,” said Vinson. “At the beginning of the year, I’m not sure if we were capable of this. But we’ve gotten better and better all year, and a lot of the credit goes to the kids and (defensive coordinator) Bobby Scott. He comes up with some crazy schemes, and the kids do their job.”
While the Bruner defense delivered big plays, the Spartan offense remained steady, punctuating three long drives with scores by Fuller. The big tailback scored twice in the first half – on runs of six and 10 yards – and finished the night with a six-yard score with just over four minutes to go. Kicker LaDontae Cowart was true on all three PAT tries.
Shoal River’s defense was also solid Thursday night, holding Bruner to 186 total yards and forcing one interception, which was grabbed by Ben Miller early in the fourth quarter.
The interception occurred on a halfback pass, and Bruner QB John Michael Owens completed both of his throws for 35 yards.
Colby West led Shoal River with 55 yards on four carries before leaving due to a possible injury.
Bruner finishes at 9-0, while Shoal River’s season ends at 6-3.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Brandon Walker at 850-315-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonWnwfdn.