NICEVILLE – On Senior Night, a junior wide receiver stole the show at Niceville’s Eagle Stadium.
Tyre McCants, a 2012 Dandy Dozen selection, lived up to the billing, accounting for 95 total yards and two electrifying touchdowns in the first half, giving Niceville all the momentum it needed in a 35-7 victory over visiting Bay.
McCants opened the scoring with a breathtaking 22-yard scoring run, on which he broke a pair of tackles at the line of scrimmage and used a spin move to plunge into the end zone to give the Eagles an early 6-0 lead. After the first of Andrew Mitchell’s five extra points, Niceville led 7-0 and the Eagles would never look back.
“I made the move at the line of scrimmage and just starting running as hard as I could,” said McCants. “I thought they were going to catch me, but once I fell into the end zone, I knew I had it.”
The junior wide receiver’s second touchdown was as spectacular as his first. With nine second remaining in the first half and Niceville leading 21-0, McCants kept his concentration on a pass from QB Ashton Hooker that was batted in the air by Bay DB Nigel Hill. Darting between two defenders, McCants jumped and got the ball at its highest point before falling backwards into the end zone for a 24-yard touch-down to give the Eagles a 28-0 halftime lead.
“We’ve been trying to get him the ball as much as we could this season, and it seems like lately we’re doing a better job of it,” said Nice-ville head coach John Hicks, whose teams ends the regular season with a 6-3 mark and will head to face District 1-6A winner Milton on Friday night. “With (Devon) Vazquez playing so well, getting McCants going just gives us another weapon out there that teams have to deal with.”
Tayjon Culley and Barrett Perry each had two-yard TD runs for Niceville in the first half to help build the four-TD halftime lead in a game where Niceville made few mistakes. Two of those mistakes were early, as Bay’s Hill and Darreyen Mathis-Sims each recorded first-half interceptions, the only two Niceville turnovers of the night.
In the second half, senior QB Andrew Mitchell connected with fullback Dane Wagner on a two-yard score early in the third quarter to push the lead to 35-0.
Bay, which had three first downs on its first drive of the game and then failed to register another until midway through the fourth, finished the night with 114 yards of total offense. The Tornadoes got on the board with just over four minutes remaining in the game on a six-yard run by sophomore RB Travian Turrell. The score capped Bay’s best drive of the night, an 11-play, 81-yard march highlighted by a 33-yard pass from QB Xavier Longerbeam to Mathis-Sims.
Other than the final drive, Niceville’s defense dominated for much of the night, limiting Bay to just 38 first half yards. By contrast, Nice-ville’s offense posted 264 total yards in the opening half, 304 for the game.
“I like the fact that defensively we’re really playing well,” said Hicks. “I feel like we are peaking at the right time. Our players knew that tonight we had to take care of business before we could start thinking about going to Milton. Now, it’s here and when we come back to work Monday, we know what’s at stake.”
Niceville will visit Milton Friday night, with the winner poised to face the Navarre-Pace survivor in the second round of the Class 6A Playoffs.
Bay finishes its season at 3-7.