The Dolphins football team gave a not-so-warm welcome to the Navarre Raiders on Friday for the annual Beach Bowl rivalry game and also the second straight year in which it doubled as the district championship. The players were greeted by the largest home attendance of the year as people from the area packed Dolphin Stadium to see who would be taking home the title of district champ. Both teams had identical records of 7-1 entering the week, and were also both exiting their bye weeks to prepare for the matchup. It would be an exciting game filled with turnovers and flagrant fouls on a rainy Friday night.
With the opening of the first quarter, the Raiders received the opening kickoff. The first offensive drive for the Raiders resulted in a great interception by senior safety Nate Herrick, giving the Dolphins early momentum. On the first offensive play for the Dolphins, junior quarterback Dylon Kelley completed a long pass downfield to Spencer Segal, also a junior, giving Gulf Breeze excellent field position. The drive would be finished off with a 10-yard touchdown run by senior Jake Weldon on a reverse play, giving the Dolphins the early lead. As the Raiders again received possession of the ball, they started to drive once more, but were abruptly stopped once again with a fumble recovery by the Dolphins. On the next drive, however, the Raiders struck back with a fumble recovery of their own to regain possession at the end of the first quarter.
Navarre wasted no time in evening the score with the Dolphins early in the second quarter, and after stopping the Dolphins on offense, took the lead on a touchdown pass to make the score 7-14. Gulf Breeze would respond quickly with a 55-yard touchdown run by junior Tyler Dittmer, who has been one of the best in the entire state this season. However, the Raiders would once again take the lead with a long touchdown pass to put the score at 14-21 at the end of the half.
As the teams came back from the locker rooms to begin the second half, tensions were high. Gulf Breeze scored again after receiving possession on a 50-yard touchdown run again by Tyler Dittmer. Unfortunately, the extra point would be missed, putting the Dolphins at a one-point disadvantage. Yet another turnover occurred on a drive by the Raiders in the form of one more fumble recovery by Gulf Breeze. This momentum would produce a successful drive by the offense ending in a 28-yard field goal by junior kicker Spencer Wirth. The score would remain 23-21 for the remainder of the quarter, with the Dolphins missing another field goal after regaining possession on a surprising -3 yard punt by the Raiders.
At the start of the final quarter, Navarre would take the final lead of the game with a touchdown followed by a successful 2-point conversion. The score sat at 23-29, opening the window for one final comeback attempt by the Dolphins. On the next drive, the offense was struggling, but their efforts were kept alive by a series of penalties including several unsportsmanlike-conducts and personal fouls. The Dolphins were getting closer, but were ultimately stopped on fourth-down by the Raiders. As Navarre regained possession, they were stopped by the Dolphins defense and were forced to punt, giving Gulf Breeze back the ball with just over a minute left in the game. The Dolphins got into Raiders’ territory and on a nail-biting final play, the ball was intercepted by the Navarre Raiders, stifling the Dolphins’ hope for a comeback win.
Tears were shed as the class of 2018 locked arms and sang their last alma mater in Dolphin Stadium. The Dolphins will play their last game of the year on the road in the state capital of Tallahassee against Gadsden County this coming Friday and hope to get one final win to end a great season and a spot in the playoffs.