It was a matter of heart for the Destin Marlins Thursday night as they booted the Meigs Wildcats 20-6 in their season opener in middle school football action in Destin.
Heart was the difference in the game, according to first-year Destin Coach Mark Hinterthan.
“Our kids prepared well and they want to change the culture here. They wanted to come out and set a tone early” he said.
And that’s exactly what the Marlins did.
After stuffing the Wildcats on their first possession, the Marlins marched it down the field making seven first downs before punching it in the end zone on a 3-yard run by Preston Murphy.
On Meigs' next possession, Destin’s Blake Orr picked off a Wildcat pass to put the Marlins in the driver's seat again. Destin picked up one first down on a 14-yard run by Jackson Crews. Destin was hit with a couple of penalties and then quarterback Max Moran was picked off by Meigs’ Cole Tabb.
Meigs didn’t have the ball long as Destin knocked the ball loose with Sandro Ciurleo making the recovery.
Destin had the ball a couple of more times in the second quarter and gained yardage, but couldn’t punch it in the end zone.
With less than two minutes to go, Meigs scored on a big play. Quarterback Blake Garland scrambled and then took it down the left side for a 59-yard touchdown run. Meigs went for the two-point conversion, but Destin’s Crews swatted the pass attempt away.
In the last 10 seconds of the first half, Destin got the ball and put it in the end zone in two plays. Crews connected with Moran for a 6-yard gain. Then on the next play, Moran hit Crews on the left side where he cruised in for a 15-yard TD reception. Nathan Stepp kicked in the point after and a 13-6 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, Destin turned the ball over twice before hanging on for another score. Starting from their own 28-yard line, Murphy picked up 1 yard and then Aiden Garrity lost a couple. On a third-and-long, Moran connected with Crews who zigged and zagged his way down to the 5-yard line for a 68-yard gain. On the next play, Garrity took it up the middle for a 5-yard TD. Stepp kicked in the point after and Destin led 20-6.
In the fourth, the Marlins had the ball three times but failed to score.
For the game, Destin had 258 yards total offense with 146 coming on the ground. Murphy rushed 11 times for 69 yards and a touchdown, while Parker Hill picked up 58 yards in nine carries. Moran completed six of 11 passes for 112 yards and threw three interceptions.
Meigs had 136 yards offense, with 100 of that on the ground. Garland had 82 yards on the ground and completed five of 16 passes for 36 yards and had one interception.
Destin turned the ball over four times, and Meigs three. As for penalties, Destin had 45 yards in penalties, while Meigs was flagged for 80 yards.