PANAMA CITY BEACH – It is much easier to lose momentum than it is to sustain it or wrestle it back.
Arnold quickly squandered an opportunity to take control of the game early Friday night and Gulf Breeze spoiled the Marlins’ Homecoming with a 42-23 victory in a District 1-5A football game at the Mike Gavlak Sports Complex.
The Marlins suffered their sixth consecutive loss and fell to 3-6 overall and 0-6 in the district. Gulf Breeze, playing its third game in the last seven days, improved to 4-5 and 3-3.
Austin Peffers’ 29-yard field goal capped Arnold’s opening drive and gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. The Marlins forced a Gulf Breeze punt, but muffed the return and gave the ball back to the Dolphins.
Gulf Breeze didn’t waste the opportunity.
Dolphins quarterback Slade Jarmon connected with receiver Clay Moss for two receptions on the ensuing drive, the last of which was a 16-yard pass in the end zone for a 7-3 lead with 3:49 left in the first quarter.
Lucas Zalar intercepted a Cody Saunders’ pass to end the Marlins’ next possession, and Jarmon capped an eight-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for a 14-3 advantage one minute into the second quarter.
Arnold battled back within 14-10 when backup quarterback Adam McAfee fired a 26-yard strike to Ray Peed on the side of the end zone for a touchdown with 5:01 left in the half. McAfee completed all three of his passes on the drive for 48 yards.
Jacob Kubik turned back the Marlin threat, however, when he raced 62 yards on a punt return for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead with 1:09 remaining before halftime. Kubik resembled a tightrope walker for the final 15 yards as he stayed inbounds before plunging across the goal line for an 11-point halftime margin.
The Marlins closed the gap to 21-17 with a 10-yard touchdown pass from McAfee to Stephen Benedik with just over 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Benedik worked his way into open space before McAfee found him over the middle to cap a 14-play, 68-yard drive.
Again, just as Arnold seemed poised to take control of the game, the Dolphins came up with another big play to stem the tide.
Gulf Breeze answered almost immediately with a 74-yard bomb from Jarmon to Kubik for a touchdown. Jarmon escaped a sack and heaved the ball deep to Kubik, who hauled in the pass and sprinted untouched to the end zone for a 28-17 edge.
Chris Cain delivered the knockout blow for Gulf Breeze with a 34-yard burst through the middle of Arnold’s defense for a touchdown and a 35-17 lead with 9 minutes remaining in the game.
Jarmon added a 50-yard touchdown pass to D’Andre Fraser with 6:40 left for an insurmountable 42-17 lead.
McAfee, who completed 20 of 35 passes for 193 yards, provided the final margin with a 9-yard touchdown run up the middle with 4:48 left.
Benedik was the Marlins’ leading receiver with seven receptions for 78 yards.
Jarmon completed 11 of 19 passes for 212 yards with one interception for Gulf Breeze, which followed a loss to Pensacola Catholic last Friday with a 42-37 win over Rutherford in a makeup game on Tuesday.
Arnold ends its season next week with a home game against Class 1A Port St. Joe.
Gulf Breeze 7 14 7 14 – 42
Arnold 3 7 7 6 – 23
Arn: FG Peffers 29
GB: Moss 16 pass from Jarmon (Zalar kick)
GB: Jarmon 2 run (Zalar kick)
Arn: Peed 26 pass from McAfee (Peffers kick)
GB: Kubik 62 punt return (Zalar kick)
Arn: Benedik 10 pass from McAfee (Peffers kick)
GB: Kubik 74 pass from Jarmon (Zalar kick)
GB: Cain 34 run (Zalar kick)
GB: Fraser 50 pass from Jarmon (Zalar kick)
Arn: McAfee 9 run (run failed)
RUSHING – Gulf Breeze: Irby 17-72, Cain 8-43, Jarmon 6-1, Harris 1-5. Arnold: Cotton 14-106, McAfee 7-12, Saunders 2-22, Dickinson 1-5.
PASSING – Gulf Breeze: Jarmon 11-19-1 212, Creech 0-1-0 0, Alexander 1-2-0 2. Arnold: Saunders 2-6-1 10, McAfee 20-35-0 193.
RECEIVING – Gulf Breeze: Fraser 3-70, Moss 3-44, Curington 3-22, Kubik 1-74, Harris 1-2, Irby 1-0. Arnold: Benedik 7-78, Parea 5-35, Dar. Batiste 4-27, Peed 2-23, Peterson 2-21, Lawley 1-12, Patterson 1-7.