Shoal River Mustangs topple Destin Marlins

Destin’s Jake Bari makes the catch and tries to pick up some yardage for the Marlins in the second half.

The Destin Marlins were looking for win No. 6 Thursday night, but it didn’t happen when the Shoal River Mustangs of Crestview walked off the gridiron with a 21-14 victory.

“We’re still fighting for that No. 1 seed,” going into the playoffs, said Destin Coach Ron Griffiths.

With a win over Bruner Middle School next Thursday, the Marlins would clinch the No. 1 seed position going into the Okaloosa County middle school football playoffs. The first round of the playoffs is set for Oct. 18 with the championship scheduled for Oct. 25.

“We’re not going to let one game get us down,” Griffiths said. “We’ve got a lot more to play for.” The best record the Marlins have ever posted on the gridiron is 5-3. “So my guys know they’ve got a lot to play for. We’re looking for win No. 6.”

And to get that win, “We’ve got to go out and execute better than we did last night,” Griffiths said.

In Thursday’s match with Shoal River, the Destin defense did shut the Mustangs down on its first possession.

“I thought we came out and made a statement and forced a punt,” Griffiths said.

The Mustangs faked the punt, but Destin’s Deonte Sheffield picked off a Shoal River pass.

But the Marlins turned it right back over to the Mustangs when Jack Bruner was picked off. A few plays later, Shoal River scored on a 1-yard plunge up the middle by Rusty Moorer. The extra point kick attempt failed.

Destin came right back with a six play drive for the score. Sheffield broke loose for a 31-yard gain in the series, followed by a catch from Bruner for another 22-yard pick up. Bruner went to Sheffield again for an 11-yard TD strike. Tyler Gilley missed on the extra point attempt and the game was tied at 6-6 a minute into the second quarter.

Shoal River ate almost six minutes off the clock on their next drive that resulted in Moorer scoring on a 15-yard run. The Mustangs went for 2-points with Moorer going up the middle for the 14-6 lead.

Destin got the ball back and made one first down on a pass from Bruner to Sheffield for a gain of 24 yards before they were forced to turn it over on downs.

Shoal River got it one last time with 37 seconds left in the half and ran out the clock for a 14-6 lead at the break.

In the third quarter, Destin had the ball twice but failed to punch it in the end zone.

At the start of the fourth, Shoal River got possession at midfield and picked up a first down. On the next play, it appeared Destin had dropped the running back for a loss of 6 yards, but the Marlins were flagged with a penalty. The call gave the Mustangs another first down on the 30-yard line. Mondreus Flavors broke away for a 26-yard gain and then picked up another 2. With the ball on the 1-yard line,

Destin stopped Moorer on his first attempt to punch it in. On his next try, he shoved his way across for the score. The extra-point kick was good and Shoal led 21-6.

With four minutes to play, Destin put together a quick drive. Sheffield rushed for 21 yards, and then Bruner connected with Gilley for a 42-yard gain. Two plays later, Jason Shirley took it in from 1-yard out. Bruner hit Gilley for the 2-point conversion for a 21-14 game.

Destin went for an onside kick and the Mustangs got the ball at the 40-yard line. Shoal River picked up 9-yards in the first two plays, but Destin was hit with a penalty for a late hit. The Mustangs now had the ball on the 16-yard line. On the next play, a fumble occurred but the Mustangs got it back but not before Destin’s Logan Spence went down with an injury. Another Marlin, Skyler Shoumaker, also went down earlier with an injury. Both were taken to the hospital, but Griffiths said Friday morning that both were OK.

After a 30-minute delay for injuries, the game resumed. Destin held the Mustangs out of the end zone and got the ball back with a 1:16 left on the clock. However, the Marlins just couldn’t get a good connection on the pass.

“We just needed some more stops on defense in the first half,” Griffiths said.

“But I thought it was well played on both sides, they just wanted it a little more.”