CRESTVIEW — There were more than bragging rights on the line Thursday as Davidson Middle School’s football team faced cross-town rival Shoal River Middle School at Crestview High School’s Jack Foster Stadium. The game was the Okaloosa County Middle School football semifinal game, and the winner would punch its ticket to the county championship game.
As was the case in their regular-season meeting, Shoal River took the win 35-6. Shoal River will face Bruner in the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Fort Walton Beach High School’s Steve Riggs Stadium.
Shoal River Coach Ryan Gillis was ready for the rematch with a Bruner team that beat Mustangs earlier this year and in last year’s championship game.
“(The win over Davidson) feels pretty good now, but you are never satisfied until you win the last one,” he said. “You will have a bad taste in your mouth if you don’t win the last win. We are excited to be in it, but we are certainly not satisfied. We are not going down there just to play the game. We are going down there to win it. We are going to be prepared, play hard and see how it turns out.”
The Mustangs lived up to their wild horse moniker as they ran wild; picking 339 yards rushing on 35 carries. Kenny Whaley led the charge with 140 yards on 13 carries. Mondreus Flavors added 66 yards on 10 carries.
Shoal River (7-1) struck first as Flavors capped a 71-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard run to the end zone that came with 3:29 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Kalee Ciurieo added the 2-point conversion and the Mustangs had a lead they would never relinquish.
Turnovers were a major issue for the Panthers, who finished the season with a 5-3 record. Three of Shoal River’s scores came off Davidson miscues.
The first of two interceptions by Bobby Sanders set up the second Mustang touchdown. Two plays after the Sanders’ interception, Whaley turned on the afterburners on his way to a 58-yard touchdown run with 6:31 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers picked up their only score of the game late in the second quarter when Rod Bouchard connected with Keon Voisin on a 9-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown came after the Panther defense held the Mustang offense to force a punt. The snap on the punt was low and Davidson recovered the ball at the Mustang 10. Three plays later, Bouchard and Voisin teamed up for the score.
Shoal River wasn’t content with an 8-point lead at the half. Tyree Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Mustang 40. A pair of runs by Whaley netted 11 yards as the clock ticked to less than 30 seconds remaining in the half. The Mustang coaching staff then reached into its bag of tricks and called a reverse to Jay Stanton. Stanton raced to the Davidson 15-yard line.
Shoal River spiked the ball to stop the clock with less than 10 seconds left in the half. Ciurieo then hit Terrelle Holiday with a 15-yard strike. Whaley took the ball in for the conversion, pushing the Mustang lead back to 16 points at the half.
Davidson showed it could move the ball in the second half, but again turnovers raised their ugly heads. The Panthers had the ball at the Mustang 36, but Davidson fumbled and Shoal River’s Darius Sylvester picked up the fumble and returned it to the Panther nine, setting up Flavors’ second score of the game with 3:22 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers had the ball deep in Mustang territory at the start of the fourth quarter, but Sanders’ second interception of the night kept Davidson off the scoreboard. Jay Stanton picked up Shoal River’s final touchdown when he scored on a 24-yard run with 4:31 left in the game. Cody Traywick kicked the extra point.
The Panthers managed just 38 yards rushing on 22 carries. Vincente Turner led Davidson in rushing with 23 yards on six carries. Rodderrick Skinner had 18 yards on seven carries.
Bouchard threw for 82 yards for the Panthers. Voisin had two catches for 56 yards.
“We had a 5-2 regular season,” Panther Coach Chris Small said, “but we got beat by a better team (Thursday). I’m going to miss this eighth-grade group.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.