One moment can change the course of a football team. Gulf Breeze head coach Bobby Clayton points to one in particular that helped set the stage for the storybook season the Dolphins have put together.
It was during the spring game in May. Gulf Breeze turned the ball over deep in its own territory, putting the Raiders in position to punch an easy touchdown into the end zone. The Dolphins refused to break.
“We stopped Navarre on four-straight downs. That was a pivotal moment for our defense. One of those defining moments,” Clayton said. “Our guys realized we can compete with good teams. It had a snowball effect for us. We continue to get better.”
It’s now late October and the Dolphins are in the midst of, arguably, their best season in school history. They are 7-1 overall, 2-0 in District 2-6A and are preparing for a crucial showdown with bitter rival Navarre Friday night at Bennett C. Russell Stadium.
Pride, the Beach Bowl Trophy and a district championship will all be on the line when the Dolphins and Raiders square off in Navarre.
Navarre has won the last nine meetings, including two in shutout fashion. But Clayton, a Gulf Breeze graduate and the first-year head coach of the Dolphins, has changed the mindset and culture of the program for which he once played.
Gulf Breeze won only three games a year ago and just two in 2014. It hasn’t had a winning season since 2012 (7-4).
Clayton calls the success of this season a dream come true. He loves the pride and excitement that has been generated because of it.
“It’s fun going into the grocery store and having people stop you to tell you how great of a job you are doing,” Clayton said. “I give all of the credit back to the kids. They are the ones who go out there and play and who have bought into what we want them to do as a team.”
When Clayton first started, he put an emphasis on instilling belief and building strength. The approach has paid off.
“My main focus was teaching the guys how to compete no matter what your size is, no matter how fast or strong you are,” Clayton said. “I wanted to get them to believe they could compete and a lot of the things we did in the offseason helped teach that.”
Read more in the Oct. 27 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.