The Baker Gators rolled up 340 yards on the ground to run away with a 40-20 win over the Destin Marlins in the playoffs of the Okaloosa Middle School small school division.
The Gators will advance to the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of the Meigs vs. Pryor game.
In Monday’s game, the Marlins had a hard time stopping the Gators.
“We didn’t hit success tonight,” said Destin Coach Mark Hinterthan. “We’ve been pretty successful throughout the year. But it didn’t come down to the Xs and Os, but the Jimmy’s and Joe’s and they had two guys that were very great and physical players,” he said.
The two guys Hinterthan was referring to were Kayleb Wagner and Tucker Martin. Wagner carried the ball 22 times for 217 yards and three touchdowns, while Martin had 11 rushes for 97 yards and two TDs.
Wagner scored his first TD after the Gators picked off a Destin pass. Wagner scored on a 15-yard run in the first two minutes of play. The two-point conversion was good for an 8-0 start.
Destin got the ball back and made one first down before having to punt.
The Gators took over at the 36 and got down to the Destin 10-yard line before they fumbled it away with Allen Collins making the recovery.
Destin made three first downs. The first came on a bad snap on fourth-down with Tabious Thompson turning a punt situation in to a run for a first down. The second was a on a catch and run by Thompson and the third was a 10-yard run by Jack Tenholder. With the ball at midfield, the Marlins stalled.
Baker led 8-0 at the half.
On the Gators' opening drive of the second half, Baker’s Martin scored on a 12-yard run and Wagner ran in the two-point conversion for a 16-0 showing.
Destin picked up one first down with Harrison Orr connecting with Thompson for a gain of 12 yards. But that was it and the Marlins were forced to punt again.
Baker got the ball at the 37-yard line and Wagner scored on the first play from scrimmage on a 37-yard run. Martin was good for the two-point conversion and a 24-0 lead.
Destin finally got on the board late in the third quarter with Orr connecting with Maddax Fayard on the left side, who took it on in for a 45-yard catch and run for the score. The two-point conversion try failed.
Baker came right back to score in six plays with Wagner breaking away for a 20-yard touchdown run. He also ran in the two-point play for a 32-6 game to start the fourth quarter.
Starting from its own 45-yard line, Destin put the ball in the air. Orr hit Fayard for a gain of 20 yards, and then later he went to Anthony Ordonez for a gain of 11. With the ball inside the red zone, Orr’s next pass was tipped and intercepted by a Baker Gator who ran it back to the Destin 35-yard line.
On the next play, Baker’s Martin broke tackle after tackle for a 35-yard run to the end zone. He also scored the two-point play for a 40-6 game.
Destin scored on their last two possessions. Orr connected with Fayard for a 30-yard TD strike and the last touchdown was a 16-yard run by Orr. Orr went to Thompson for the two-point conversion and 40-20 finish.
“Overall, I was extremely pleased. We had a lot of first this season,” Hinterthan said, noting the undefeated 7-0 season. “We had a great group of kids and a great group of parents. I couldn’t be more proud.
“It would have been nice to win this one and move on, but that’s not the way it happened,” he added.