Other big winners from the area were Navarre, Freeport and Rocky Bayou
CHIPLEY — The state championship eluded Baker last season, but another shot at a title game run appears to have taken a very friendly path after the Gators clipped Chipley, 41-27, in a showdown for first place in Region 1-1A on Friday night.
Barring an upset, the win clinched the region’s top seed and home-field advantage for the Gators (7-0, 4-0 1-1A) through the opening three rounds of the playoffs. Chipley (6-1, 3-1) most likely will settle for the second seed and a road trip to Baker if the two powerhouse programs meet along the postseason route to Orlando.
Running back Junior McLaughlin had a major impact on the Baker win, completing one pass for a 57-yard touchdown to Derek Peoples, catching two balls for 113 yards and a pair of scores, plus taking 11 carries for 88 yards and another touchdown.
But the offensive numbers didn’t stop there.
Quarterback Kalee Ciurleo completed 10 of 13 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Peoples caught five passes for 144 yards and two scores, Ethan Garrett had two receptions for 85 yards and a TD, while Jalen Ciurleo had two receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown and 89 yards rushing and a TD.
Overall, Baker amassed 527 yards of total offense —360 passing and 157 rushing.
Gators coach Matt Brunson knew the significance of the game before kickoff, telling the Daily News in a preview story: “We believe we’ll meet Chipley again regardless of who wins. We’d just rather play them at home in the playoffs.”
Baker — which has made consecutive trips to the Final Four, including a state runner-up finish in 2016, and won 20 of its last 21 games — closes the season with a game against out-of-state Snook Christian Academy next week followed by dates with struggling Northview and Graceville program.
MILTON — Just say the wheels are back in motion for the Navarre Raiders.
Smarting from last week’s Homecoming meltdown when the Raiders shockingly relinquished a near four-touchdown lead in a 35-27 loss to Escambia, Navarre set up a showdown for the District 2-6A championship with the win over Milton at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
The Raiders lost their shot at an undefeated regular season against Escambia, now standing at 6-1 overall, but are still eyeing the district title with a perfect 2-0 mark after downing the Panthers (2-6, 0-2).
After a scoreless first quarter, the Raiders took a 14-7 lead into halftime following a Joshua Carter 15-yard touchdown run and 52-yard scoring pass from Sage Chambers to Dante Wright. Milton got on the scoreboard following an electrifying 63-yard TD reception by Caleb Mincks from Aubrey Williams.
Wright found the end zone twice in the third quarter —37-yard run and 40-yard pass from Chambers — and the Raiders were never threatened again in the game.
The District 2-6A title will be decided next week when Navarre visits Gulf Breeze, which improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in 2-6A after beating Pace on Friday night.
Holmes County 54,
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — The struggles for coach Jimmy Ray Stephens and the Braves continued following the home loss to Holmes County.
Vinson Flowers scored on a 7-yard run while Kentrell Parker found Jordan Dobie on a 17-yard touchdown pass for Walton.
Walton now stands at 2-6 and saw its losing streak extended to four games since the team posted back-to-back wins over Arnold (19-10) and Freeport (37-34) early in September.
The victory was a rebound for Holmes County (6-2) after the Blue Devils had a four-game winning streak snapped decisively last week by a 49-0 score at Blountstown.
Walton returns to action next week in a home date with Chipley.
Snook Christian 12
FOLEY, Ala. — Moving to 2-1 on its current four-game road swing, the Bulldogs got back in the win column with the big out-of-state victory.
Freshman running back K’wan Powell had another monster game for coach Shaun Arntz, exploding for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Rajah Hooks and Shannon Carswell also found the end zone while Hooks, Cameron Hardee and Kadyen Inns all had interceptions on defense. Inns returned his pick for a touchdown.
Now 4-4 on the season, Freeport opened the stretch of games away from Walton County with a 48-19 win at Northview, which was followed by a 49-14 loss against a talented Chipley club.
“It was a great team win,” Arntz said. “Our guys did a very good job of bouncing back from a demoralizing loss last week to Chipley, so I’m very happy about that.
“We still have some details to dive into and I’m confident that our coaches and players will get it right.”
Freeport returns to action next week at Bozeman. SCA has another tough test with a road trip to powerhouse Baker.
Port St. Joe 37,
South Walton 0
SANTA ROSA BEACH — Take away a 45-28 loss to undefeated Autauga Academy in Prattville, Alabama, and there have been few small school teams as dominant as Port St. Joe in Northwest Florida.
South Walton (3-5) found that out Friday night.
The win improved the Sharks to 7-1. In those seven wins, Port St. Joe has amassed a 193-45 scoring advantage.
Rocky Bayou 49,
Munroe Day 12
SHALIMAR — Put a check in the win column for the Knights — in a major way.
Powered by Caleb Preston and David Denbow, Rocky Bayou (1-6) found the magic that had been missing all season as the Knights steamrolled the Bobcats (1-6) for their first win at Meigs Middle School.
The result was a complete reversal from 2016 when Munroe stopped Rocky Bayou, 55-33.
Preston exploded for 222 yards on 22 carries and scored four touchdowns. David Denbow — who completed 4 of 10 passes for two scores — took 13 carries for 110 yards and a TD.
Preston also caught three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown while Aaron Grabinger had one reception for a 1-yard score.
Defensively, Will Ferguson had a team-high 12 tackles, Preston added eight stops and Denbow recorded two interceptions.
Rocky Bayou returns to action next week at Oak Hall.