PANAMA CITY BEACH — If Rutherford was facing a sink-or-swim situation Friday night, quarterback Dallas Davis was a life preserver.
Davisled Rutherford to three touchdowns in the second quarter to erase an early deficit, and the Rams collected their first victory of the season with a 37-7 win over Arnold at the Mike Gavlak Sports Complex.
The victory ended the Rams’ three-game losing streak, and it also put into perspective how unimportant those losses were. Rutherford now is 1-0 in District 1-5A, a sterling record in light of its overall mark. Arnold suffered its first loss in four games and also was competing in its district opener.
Daviswas the most valuable player on the field, using his arms and legs to carry Rutherford’s offense. He finished with 227 yards on 17-for-28 passing, and he added another 109 yards on 13 carries. He rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another.
“I’ve got to give credit to my offensive line,” Davis said. “If we didn’t have them, none of us — not me, not our running backs — would have gotten any touchdowns.”
Arnoldseized an early lead moments after Marlin defensive back Tristan Dickenson intercepted a deflected pass at the Arnold 48. Torri Cotton broke loose for a long carry to set up quarterback Adam McAfee’s 5-yard sprint through the middle of the Rams’ defense for a 7-0 lead with 4 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Davisscored on a play almost identical to McAfee’s touchdown run, cutting through the Arnold defense on a quarterback keeper out of the shotgun on a 5-yard sprint. That knotted the score at 7-7 with 10½ minutes to play in the first half.
Davisgave the Rams their first lead with another run up the middle, muscling his way to the goal line on a 12-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 advantage with 4:37 remaining before halftime.
Rutherford forced a turnover on downs at its 36-yard line on Arnold’s next drive, and Davis steered the Rams down the field on a seven-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 17-yard touchdown strike to receiver Tre Holmes. The Rams needed just 1:21 to move down the field and score, and they carried a 21-7 lead into the locker room.
Daviscemented his team’s victory with an 11-yard touchdown romp on the first drive of the second half. His score capped an eight-play, 57-yard drive and handed the Rams a 28-7 lead.
Rutherford allowed 718 rushing yards to Escambia last weekend in a 70-54 loss, but it held up much better against the Marlins. Arnold was able to generate some offense, but the Rams made key stops at important moments to squelch several Marlin drives.
Rutherford’s first three games this season were played against opponents who had combined for only one loss entering Friday night. Davis said that had an effect when Rutherford lined up against the Marlins.
“Coach (Alvin Dempsey) set it up so we played top-notch teams to get us ready for the playoffs,” Davis said.
McAfee accounted for 121 yards of total offense for Arnold. He ran for 52 yards on 13 carries and also connected on 7 of 12 passes for 69 yards. Cody Saunders also saw time at quarterback for Arnold and led the Marlins with 56 rushing yards. Saunders also passed for 65 yards to match McAfee’s total offensive production.
Rutherfordplace-kicker Dailin Allen booted a 33-yard field goal to give the Rams a 31-7 lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter, and he added a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter. Another kicker, Donald Gonzalez, provided the final margin with a 23-yard field goal with 2:20 left in the game.
Arnoldhosts county rival Mosley in another district game next Friday. Rutherford travels to Pensacola Catholic.
Rutherford 0 21 10 6 — 37
Arnold 7 0 0 0 — 7
Arn: McAfee 5 run (Peffers kick)
Ruth: Davis5 run (Allen kick)
Ruth: Davis12 run (Allen kick)
Ruth: Holmes 17 pass from Davis (Allen kick)
Ruth: Davis11 run (Allen kick)
Ruth: FG Allen 33
Ruth: FG Allen 36
Ruth: FG Gonzalez 22
RUSHING — Rutherford: D. Davis 13-109, Young 4-40, Mackall 7-23, Willis 5-3, J. Davis 1-1, Barnes 1-(minus-6). Arnold: Saunders 6-56, McAfee 13-51, Cotton 7-44, Dickenson 2-11, Johnson 2-7, Benedik 1-(minus-1).
PASSING — Rutherford: D. Davis 17-28-1 227, J. Davis 0-1-0 0. Arnold: McAfee 7-12-0 69, Saunders 4-14-1 65.
RECEIVING — Rutherford: Barnes 6-76, E. Little 4-72, Herron 3-40, Holmes 1-17, Thornton 2-20, F. Little 1-2. Arnold: Parea 4-57, Da. Batiste 4-58, MacKenzie 2-9, Patterson 1-9.