No longer a 'hope' or 'thought - Destin Shark football birthed on May 2
For more than four decades, Destin has fielded three to four youth football teams, known as the Dolphins.
In 1997, Destin Middle School opened its doors and another football team was born, the Marlins.
On May 2, 2022, 49 athletes from Destin High School stepped on to the practice field behind Destin Elementary School for the first day of football spring training, the day the Sharks became Destin’s first high school football team.
“We’re excited to get it started,” said Destin High Athletic Director Phil Dorn as he got out of his truck at the practice field. “This is the one sport that I think a lot of people felt we wouldn’t be able to get going this year.”
Bill Shirah, who was one of the first to coach in the Destin Dolphin youth football program, had hoped for a high school team one day.
“We always thought and hoped we would,” Shirah said, noting he’s glad to see it come to fruition.
Nevertheless, Shirah said, “It’s going to be a tough road ahead, but they’ve got a great guy at the helm. It’s going to be fun to see them develop.”
Matt Taylor, who played for the Dolphins as a youth, now has a son, Dalton, who will play as a Shark.
“It’s exciting to see it moving forward,” Taylor said. “That first year they are going to take their lumps. But there’s a lot of talent in Destin. And it’s exciting for my son to play in the town that he grew up in.”
Football is the last of 22 teams the high school has formed during its first year.
“We’re very excited that we’re up and running … and the numbers are what we think could be a competitive 1A program,” Dorn said.
This group of young men started as a club in the fall. They met once a week, talked about football, watched films, talked about uniforms and the future of Destin football.
“And now here we are, today on May 2 … we’re here, that’s good stuff,” Dorn said.
Was there ever a doubt?
“We thought we could, we just weren’t sure how it was all going to fit together,” Dorn said.
But once the high school got E.G. Green, a former Fort Walton Beach Viking as well as a Florida State Seminole, hired as head coach, everything started to fall into place, Dorn said.
“We started our football classes … it has come along like it has anywhere else,” Dorn said.
Monday marked the first day on the football field with helmets and cleats.
Green said he expected a lot of “excitement and nervousness for the kids.”
“To be honest, this is our first opportunity to see them in action, to see what we’ve got,” Green said. “But they’ve been working really hard.”
The Sharks have 49 athletes that turned out on the first day of practice.
“We’ve got bodies, now let's see what else we can do,” Green said.
As Green walked out on the field, he was quick to line the guys up on the sideline.
“Don’t nobody cross the line,” he said, until a coach tells you to.
“This is sacred ground,” he told the players as they stood shoulder to shoulder with toes on the line.
During the two-hour practice they ran through punting drills, punt returns, how to tackle among other aspects of the game.
“It’s just exciting to be out here and smell the grass and play a little football. Today is about … be excited have some fun and learn a little bit. One step at a time,” Green said.
The Sharks have a lot of multi-sport athletes on the team that have been doing other things this year such as basketball, wrestling, track or baseball. And some are new to the sport and others haven’t played in a while.
Joseph Abene, a junior, is one of those new to football.
“I love the sport … it’s fun. I can’t wait to get out there,” Abene said during one of the water breaks.
Abene, who played baseball, hopes to play middle linebacker for the Sharks.
Destin High will also be getting a few players come in from Destin Middle School.
“We’ve got a great class of eighth graders coming up from middle school. It’s exciting, but right now we’re focusing on the 40 guys we’ve got and going from there,” Green said.
The Sharks will play a controlled scrimmage with Rocky Bayou on May 20. Then in August, the Sharks will participate in a jamboree with Freeport and Vernon.
In the meantime, “It’s about see what we’ve got and what we can do,” Green said.