Marlins have potential to compete on the gridiron

TINA HARBUCK
Nolan Berry carries the ball for the Destin Marlins. Coach Demetris Stevens says Berry should get a lot of touches for touchdowns this year.

After a lackluster showing last year, the Destin Middle School Marlin football team is looking to get back in the game this season.

"They're a real scrappy bunch, a group of smart kids and they are progressing really well," said Destin Coach Demetris Stevens at practice last Thursday.

"We've got some potential this year and I think we're going to be a little more competitive than we were last season. We're just trying to continue on with what Coach G (Griffiths) built over here," Stevens said.

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Coach Ron Griffiths was part of the Marlin football program for 15 years and stepped down as head coach last year, but still coached on the sidelines. This year, Griffiths has taken a job at Meigs Middle School in Shalimar as the assistant principal.

"We had a little bit of a setback last season and we're trying to get back to a respectable level of football out here in Destin," said Stevens who is entering his second year as head coach of the Marlins.

Stevens will be helped on the sidelines by Brian McDaniel and new coaches Daniel Griffin and Bill Ragle.

"They bring a lot of experience into the system out here," Stevens said of Griffin and Ragle. "And the kids are benefiting from the new perspective of coaching."

Stevens is already seeing a difference and expecting good things from the offense.

"Our strength is going to be our run game this year," Stevens said.

"Just because we're in a spread offense doesn't mean we're not going to be physical. We're going to be physical up front and we're going to be able to run the ball a little bit this year."

And the man you can look to carry the load will be eighth grader Nolan Berry.

"Nolan Berry is going to do some work this year. He's going to do some damage," Stevens said. "He's got enough speed to where he'll put his foot in the ground and go north and south. He's going to get a lot of touchdowns this year."

The Marlins will be rotating between two guys under center.

"We've got two mobile quarterbacks," Stevens said. Splitting the time on the field will be eighth graders Jack White and Harrison Bryce.

"Both are going to see the field this year … I expect them to spin it."

As for a weakness on the team, Stevens said its depth.

"We're kind of a small team, so our weakness right now is depth. We can't afford for any of our kids to be out of shape or have an injury."

Over the summer, the number of players ran in the low 20s and on Thursday, they had about 28 on the practice field. However, Stevens is hoping to increase that number by about a half dozen when school starts back on Aug. 18.

But for now, "I think they are ready to go," Stevens said. "They are enthusiastic and we're changing a few things."

One change the Marlins have made is dropping armband system.

"They have to know the plays," Stevens said.

"They definitely had a little rust on them but they are shaking it off and getting after it."

The Marlins will participate in the Okaloosa County Middle School Jamboree on Aug. 29 at Etheredge Stadium. Destin will take on Meigs at 6:30 p.m.