Destin Marlins give Pryor Pirates the boot

Tina Harbuck

They’ve come close before, but Thursday was their night.

The Destin Marlins defeated the Pryor Pirates 3-1 to win the Okaloosa County Middle School Girls Soccer Championship game.

“It was just mental toughness and just trusting our teammates toward the end” that helped to capture the victory, said Destin Coach Demetrius Stevens.

“We got three goals with three different goal scorers,” he said, noting the team effort. “This means the world to me because I know how hard these girls have been working, some of them for like four years."

The players were just as excited about the win.

“It means a lot because I’ve been on the team for four years,” said eighth grader Katie Gilbert.

“We worked as a team to achieve this goal,” added Brooklyn Luna, also an eighth grader.

Last year, Destin lost to the Ruckel Rams in the title game. This year, Ruckel was knocked out of the county tournament by Pryor earlier in the week, 1-0.

“It was really exciting to get this far,” said eighth grader Mariah Manthey. “We didn’t expect to go against Pryor, we expected Ruckel.”

In the title game Thursday night in Destin, the Pirates jumped on the Marlins early scoring in the first three minutes of play.

However, about three minutes before the half, Destin’s Manthey headed a ball and then Kathryn Ballard followed up to boot the ball into the goal for a 1-1 game at the half.

At the start of the second half, Destin turned the table on the Pirates and scored in the first three minutes with Ashlyn Fernandez kicking one in straight up the middle from about 15 yards out to take the lead.

The Marlins put one more ball in the net. About 15 minutes into the half, Ally Dowdy hit a diagonal shot from the left side and found the right corner of the net for a 3-1 victory.

“(The Pirates) were a much improved team. That was the most difficult game of the season,” Stevens said.

Destin beat Pryor twice earlier in the season, 5-1 and then 8-0.

“This is the first time we brought home the big trophy (since 2007),” Steven said. “It feels really good.”

Bella Castaneda, Mariana Gunter, Katie Gilbert, Ally Dowdy, Nia Madrigal, Sarah Lowe, Brooklyn Luna, Quinn Porter, Jareny Enriquez, Mariah Manthey, Ashlyn Fernandez, Natalie Denton, Mary Gargas, Olivia Beard, Ella Burke, Kerry Seekamp, Makenzi Maltezo, Mikala Urenda, Bella Larabee, Kathryn Ballard and Selena Gallardo.