FORT WALTON BEACH — Gulf Breeze played spoiler at Choctawhatchee’s Homecoming at Joe Ethredge Stadium on Friday.
A tenacious Dolphin squad capitalized on numerous Indian turnovers to take a 35-12 win.
Statistically the game was much closer than the final score indicated as Gulf Breeze had 361 yards in total offense to Choctaw’s 324 yards. And that’s where the turnovers came into play.
The Dolphins muffed two punts that the Indians recovered, but Choctaw only came away with one field goal to show for it.
Meanwhile, the Indians had six turnovers, including five second half miscues. A misplayed lateral recovered by the Dolphins on the last play of the third quarter set up a Dolphin touchdown and four fourth quarter interceptions led to two more Gulf Breeze (6-2) scores in the final stanza.
Turnovers plagued Choctaw (3-5) from the outset as the Indians took the opening kick and drove the ball to the Dolphin 7-yard line only to lose a fumble.
The Indians scored first when. Perry Gatling recovered a muffed punt for the Indians at the Dolphin 18 early in the second quarter, but the Gulf Breeze defense held and Choctaw had to settle for a 20-yard field goal off the foot of Dominique Jordan with 6:16 left in the half.
The Dolphins took the ensuing kick and drove 80 yards on six plays. Chandler Foxworth had 63 yards in running and receiving on the drive, but it was quarterback Andrew Creech who scored from eight yards out with 4:18 left in the half.
Creech hit Xan Sarra with a 13-yard scoring pass with 35 seconds left in the second period to extend the Dolphin lead to 14-3.
The Indians then went into an impressive two-minute drill and drove the ball 60-yards on four plays to set up another Jordan field goal as the half ended.
Choctaw quarterback Garrison Floyd was 3-of-4 passing on the drive, hitting Gatson Rickard with a seven-yard strike to start things off. The big play of the drive was a 37-yard reception by Shamar Johnson that gave the Indians a first down at the Gulf Breeze 25.
Floyd finished his part of the drive with 16-yard pass to Tyler Megill that set up the chip shot for Jordan as time expired.
The Indian defense forced a quick punt on the first Dolphin possession of the second half and Choctaw quickly covered a short 41-yard field for a touchdown.
Floyd continued to find Rickard and Megill on the drive that was capped by a 17-yard reverse that saw Johnson take the ball in for a score. The Indians went for two in an attempt to tie things up, but failed.
The Indians were threatening again after Darryl Johnson jumped on a second Dolphin muff of a punt at the Gulf Breeze 36, but it wasn’t to be. The rest of the evening belonged to the Dolphins as they took advantage of one Choctaw mistake after another.
Choctaw coughed up the ball on a lateral on the last play of the third quarter and two plays into the fourth period Creech scored on a 59-yard run that opened the flood gates.
Foxworth later scored from 28 yards out following an Indian interception and Josh Irby picked up the final score of the night from 15 yards out to cap the Gulf Breeze win.
Gulf Breeze coach Chris Nemith was happy with the way his team handled the early adversity.
“We had to overcome some missed plays in the first half,” he said. “Any time you play a Choctaw team coached by Greg Tho-mas the kids are going to play hard. And they played hard.
“We had to create some of our own luck and when you do that it’s because of your preparation during the week when you pre-pare and cover everything. We tell our kids if it doesn’t work early, it’s going to work late, keep plugging away and work within the context.”