Destin stumbles in county playoffs

Destin’s Jake Bari (34) comes down with an interception in the fourth quarter and runs it out of the end zone for a 34-yard gain. Destin lost 14-0 to Bruner.

Although Destin held the Bruner Spartans scoreless for 18 minutes, it only took Spartan’s De’Ques Raine 18 seconds to return the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards to break the deadlock. Bruner went on to win 14-0 that first round of the Okaloosa County Championship playoff game played at Viking Field in Fort Walton Beach.

“I thought we came out and played great defense the first half,” said Destin Marlin Coach Ron Griffiths. “We played with a lot of fire and a lot of energy.”

On Bruner’s first possession, the Destin defense was able to shut the Spartans down in the red zone.

Destin got the ball back with a little more than a minute to go in the first quarter, but failed to really gain any ground.

“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Griffiths said.

To start the second half, Destin kicked off to Bruner. Raine took the ball on the 3-yard line and then scampered 97-yards for the score. Evan Mitchell kicked in the point after for a 7-0 lead.

On the Marlins next possession, Destin went backwards, getting hit with penalty after penalty on delays and false start calls. Destin had to punt and Bruner got the ball at the Marlin 44-yard line

Bruner clipped off about 5 to 6 yards each play until they put it in the end zone on a 4-yard run around the right end by Raine. Mitchell booted in the point after and Bruner led 14-0 with 1:28 to play in the third.

With the Marlins back in possession, Destin fumbled the ball away on the second play.

Bruner took over at about midfield and pushed it down inside the 20. On a third-and-8 play, Destin’s Jake Bari picked off a John Michael Owens pass in the end zone and ran it out to the 34-yard line.

Destin picked up a first down on a couple of completions from Jack Bruner to Tyler Gilley and Bari for a total gain of 14 yards. Destin was backed up on a pass interference call and finally gave it up on downs. Bruner got the ball and ran out the clock.

“I thought we had a good game plan going in,” Griffiths said. “But they kind of took the wind out of our sail with the kickoff return. They just did a better job of executing in the second half than we did.”

Destin finished the regular season 5-2, which is the first winning season for the Marlins since 2001. “It’s been a very enjoyable season,” Griffiths said. “They have a lot to be proud of.”

Destin was one of four teams to qualify for the first-ever Okaloosa County Middler School football playoffs. The other two teams were Ruckel and Shoal River.

“They should be proud of their accomplishments,” Griffiths said.