PANAMA CITY — It would be easy to credit Bay’s 21-7 comeback win over Arnold Friday night at Tommy Oliver Stadium to halftime adjustments made by the Tornadoes.
It basically was a tale of two halves, Arnold controlling the first 24 minutes and Bay dominating the final two quarters.
Just as efficiently, the turnaround could be attributed to the Tornadoes regrouping on Senior Night, many players experiencing a final game at the stadium located adjacent to their campus.
It might not be a stretch, however, to impart at least some of the explanation for the outcome to a lengthy 27-minute halftime that included a tribute to former Bay coach John Cobb, as well as both bands performing.
If the Marlins, 2-6, 1-3, had any momentum gained from the first half it might have leaked away as both teams waited to retake the field.
That wasn’t factored into the equation by the Tornadoes, 3-6, 1-3, who savored the victory after six consecutive losses.
“It was great to go out on a win, my last home game,” said Bay linebacker Dance Estes, unofficially credited with 10 tackles.
“We just came to play in the second half. We just came together.”
On a ledger befitting a rivalry game, the teams combined for 254 total yards. The hidden yards for Bay were 86 in punt returns by Martez Mason, each sparking a Tornadoes’ touchdown.
Arnold profited from wingback Michael Layfield’s option pass for a touchdown to John Wallace being negated by a holding penalty, and the Marlins resultantly took over at the Tornadoes’ 45 when Austin Bailey recovered a fumble.
Arnold took 13 plays to drive that distance. Anthony Nicholson followed linemen Alex McKinney and Hunter Murray to convert on fourth-and-3 inside the 5, and quarterback Treyshon Selders powered over from the 1 with 4:19 before intermission. Arnold led 7-0 at intermission.
The Marlins limited the Tornadoes to 31 yards in the half and held a whopping time of possession advantage of 15:56 to 8:04. That completely reversed in the second half. And then some.
Nigel Hill recovered an Arnold fumble at the Marlins’ 20 on their first possession of the third quarter. Four runs by Telvion Malone-Boyd, who led all rushers with 72 yards on 18 carries, moved the ball to the 1.
Kyle Melquist, who took over for Bay at quarterback for the second half, sneaked in behind center Vern Barth and it was 7-7 midway through the quarter.
That’s when Mason became prominent. His 16-yard punt return started Bay at Arnold’s 44 late in the third quarter. The Tornadoes’ offensive line became prominent at that point and Malone-Boyd squirted into the end zone behind Jermaine Hill and Andrew Wright blocks to give Bay a 14-7 edge with 9:14 remaining.
Arnold was limited to one first down in the second half, and that after consecutive illegal substitution penalties on Bay. Mason responded with a 70-yard punt return to the Marlins’ 2, and Jordan Gipson crashed over two plays later with 6:39 left for the final touchdown.
The Marlins gained only 14 yards in the second half, committed four penalties and lost two turnovers. They controlled the ball only 7:04 during the final two quarters to 16:56 for Bay.
Nicholson had 46 yards on 14 carries and also caught four passes, but they were for minimal gains.
Travian Turrell added 51 yards rushing for the Tornadoes, including some key first-down runs to lengthen drives.
Bay attempted only one pass, Melquist completing it to John Sherman for 6 yards.
Bay finishes its season at Niceville next week. Arnold will play its finale at Fort Walton Beach.