Emerald Coast defense shuts Destin down

Tina Harbuck

Although the Destin Marlins struck first, the Emerald Coast Stingrays put up 34 unanswered points to beat Destin 34-12 in middle school football action Tuesday night in Destin.

“Emerald Coast is good at what they do,” said Destin Coach Daniel Griffin. “They had a very good game plan and they executed.

“I don’t think we came out with the same intensity that we’ve had in previous weeks.”

And that early score might have “backfired on us a little bit … thought OK here we go again, and we thought it was going to be easy and slacked up a little bit,” Griffin said.

“But hats off to Emerald Coast. They are very well coached and executed their game plan.”

Destin had 118 yards of offense with Jamison Brundidge leading the way on the ground with 71 yards, including the first 57-yard dash to the goal line in the opening minute of the game. Nick Greer had 47 yards and Dylan Ogle scored the other Destin TD on a 5-yard run late in the fourth.

On the other hand, Emerald Coast rolled up 285 yards of offense.

The Stingrays rushed for 172 yards with Alex Strain the main guy carrying the ball nine times for 137 yards and four touchdowns. Addison Graddy rushed five times for 25 yards.

Through the air, Drake Roberts completed five of 12 passes for 104 yards in the first three quarters for Emerald Coast. In the fourth quarter, Dalton Romano took over under center and completed three of five passes for nine yards, and two interceptions.

“Our offense is just doing good, can’t say anything bad about our offense,” said Emerald Coast Coach Chris Mayer.

“But defense stepped it up today. If they hadn’t after that first possession, we’d be in trouble.”

After Destin’s first score by Brundidge, Emerald Coast scored about midway of the first quarter with Roberts moving the ball down the field through the air connecting with Zane King-Williamson for 14 yards and then Ethan Karian for 34 yards. Two plays later, Strain broke loose around the right end for a 34-yard touchdown run. Emerson Inestroza kicked in the point atter for a 7-6 lead.

Destin failed to get anything going on their next possession and elected to punt.

King-Williamson deep to receive returned it 50 yards for the Stingrays. Three plays later, Strain put it in the end zone again from one-yard out this time. Inestroza’s kick went wide right. Emerald Coast led 13-6.

Destin had the ball once more in the first quarter and gained a little ground but not enough for a first.

On the punt return, King-Williamson brought it back 60 yards for the TD. Strain ran in the two-point conversion and Emerald Coast led 21-6 early in the second quarter.

The Stingray defense held strong again and stopped Destin forcing a punt.

Starting from the Destin 36-yard line, the Stingrays punched it in with Strain scoring his third touchdown on a 19-yard run. Inestroza kicked in the point after for a 28-6 advantage.

Each team had the ball one more time with neither scoring as time ran out on the first half.

In the third period, Emerald Coast got the ball first and capped off an 11-play drive with Strain scoring on a 20-yard run. The point after kick went wide right for a 34-6 game.

About midway of the fourth quarter, Destin finally got things turned around and put another touchdown on the board with Ogle scoring on a 5-yard run. The two-point try failed for a 34-12 finish.

“The defense stepped it up for us this week,” Mayer said.

“They started off weak. We called a timeout and made some adjustments, fired them up a little bit, then they jump in there and didn’t back down the rest of the night.”

Sept. 10: Destin at Pryor

Sept. 17: Destin at Meigs

Sept. 24: Destin hosts Ruckel

•All game begin at 6:30 p.m.