They may be young, but the Destin Middle School Marlins are spirited and ready to hit the football field.
Under the leadership of Coach Demetris Stevens, the Marlins will square off against Pryor Middle at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 23 at Fort Walton Beach High School in a jamboree.
"We're young this year, but there’s a lot of enthusiasm," Stevens said.
Stevens is not new to the football program at Destin Middle. For the last three years, he has worked with the defense alongside Coach Tony Noah. But this year he will serve as head coach and continue to work with the defense.
Ron Griffiths is still with the program and will be working with the offense.
"It was time to turn it over to Coach Stevens," said Griffiths, who will continue to serve as athletic director. "I'm trying to phase out of the coaching part of it and get into the administrative side of it, whether it's this year or on down the road.
"So the right thing to do is to turn it over to a guy that plans on being with the school program for years to come. So I'm looking forward to doing a little bit different role," Griffiths said.
The same is true for Stevens.
"It's a little bit of a change, a little more responsibilities," Stevens said.
Nevertheless he's already meeting the challenge and getting the team football ready.
"A lot of the younger kids that took seventh grade year off saw the success we had last year, so now they are trying to get to be a part of the program," Stevens said. "I think we are moving in a positive direction."
Last year the Marlins had the best start since the school opened its doors in 1997. Destin jumped out to a 5-0 start and finished the regular season 5-2 with a trip to the county's first-ever playoffs.
"We've got some talented guys out here," Stevens said. "Right now we're working on our depth and we're getting better every day. We've had a lot of guys that are just now picking up the game of football."
Thomas Driscoll is one of those guys. The eighth grader is about 6-foot-1 and has never played football before, but he has run cross country, which may be enough to make him a starter,
"We've got some speed. We don't have many huge guys, but we never do in Destin," Stevens said. "So we're going to have to execute and get the ball into our fast guys’ hands and hopefully let them do some good things."
"It's hard to replace a (Deonte) Sheffield," Griffiths added. Last year Sheffield scored 16 touchdowns and 26 for his middle school career.
But Griffiths said he's looking forward to working with some of the new talent coming up through the ranks such as seventh grader Nolan Berry and Michael Dorminy, an eighth grader who didn't play as a seventh grader.
"It's still a fun offense to run and we've been fortunate to put a lot of points on the board. We're just looking forward to keeping that going," Griffiths said.
And heading up the offense in the quarterback slot is Brady Ooten, an eighth grade transfer.
"He can throw the ball really well," Stevens said. "And he's a great leader. He's exactly what we needed for a young team."
ON THE SCHEDULE
Aug. 23 - Pryor (at FWBHS)
Aug. 29 - Bruner (at FWBHS)
Sept. 5 - Ruckel
Sept. 12 - Pryor (Etheredge)
Sept. 19 - at Meigs
Sept. 26 - Lewis
Oct. 3 - at Shoal River
Oct. 10 - Davidson
*All games begin at 6:30 p.m.