PANAMA CITY — On a night when dreary special teams play seemed certain to doom Bay, the Tornadoes made sure they were superior in one phase of the game.
It wound up ensuring an 18-10 Homecoming win over Chiles Thursday night at Tommy Oliver Stadium that also ensured something much larger.
After struggling through a pair of three-win seasons, the Tornadoes (5-4) will finish 2013 with no worse than a .500 record. For that, they have a staunch defensive effort to thank.
Bay averaged only 21 yards on five punts and missed two extra points and a conversion pass. It allowed a 41-yard return by Chiles’ Jonathan Scaringe on a pooch kickoff, and also let the Timberwolves convert on a fake punt.
Resultantly Chiles (2-5) began five second-half possessions at Bay’s 34, 44, 49, its own 49 and Bay’s 41. The Tornadoes yielded a fourth-quarter touchdown when Ben Whalen darted in from the 3 with 9:35 remaining, but otherwise shut the door.
Sophomore noseguard Daryl Wilson led a charge that dismantled the Timberwolves’ running game, Chiles limited to only 38 yards on 25 attempts.
Linebackers Wazir Brevard, Preston Roulhac and Keidric Cook all were active and safety Markeis Goodman make key stops around the edge and batted down two passes. When Jasper Hollowan intercepted quarterback Trey Melvin in the end zone with 2:55 left, the Tornadoes finally were able to grind out two first downs and for the second straight week end the game on the field.
It didn’t start out to be a struggle. Bay forced a three-and-out to start the game and Travion Turrell returned a punt 48 yards to set up the Tornadoes at Chiles’ 35. That and a stop by Hollowan when punter Ryan Muldoon tried to run on another fake in the third quarter were Bay’s lone highlights on special teams.
It took Bay 10 plays to score following Turrell’s return, but a key fourth-down pass from Xavier Longerbeam to Michael Layfield achieved first down at the 5, and Longerbeam strolled in from there after a nifty fake to tailback Raekwon Webb.
It became 12-0 on Bay’s next possession when Longerbeam pinpointed junior receiver Robert Monroe who was yards in the clear of Chiles’ secondary. The 73-yard pass and run was one of six receptions for Monroe for 88 yards.
Bay’s defense became prominent from that point as the Timberwolves twice had first and goal in the second quarter and only could produce a 27-yard field goal by Jake-Robert Meyer.
A 17-yard penalty for a chop block set Chiles back the first time and Meyer was short on a 36-yard attempt. A delay penalty hurt the Timberwolves the next time and Goodman batted away Melvin’s third-down pass to keep Bay ahead 12-3 at halftime.
The Tornadoes produced the best drive of the game going 80 yards in 11 plays with the third-quarter kickoff. The big play was as 34-yard screen pass to Webb on third-and-17. Webb made a one-handed catch, Monroe gave him a solid downfield block and a Chiles’ personal foul set up Bay at the 5.
It took three runs by Webb to get in, but he finally dived over the top from the 1. He finished with 22 carries for 66 yards, Longerbeam 10 of 16 passing for 180 yards and one score.
Chiles heightened the drama when it marched its first possession of the fourth quarter 51 yards. Wahlen, who had 35 yards on 16 carries, got loose on a counter for 22 yards. Melvin then found Scaringe for a 25-yard gain on third-and-11 to reach the 3.
Bay allowed only three first downs and 66 total yards in the second half while securing its third straight victory.
The Tornadoes conclude their season against Mosley next week with a county title still within reach.