NICEVILLE — To simply call them shutouts would be an insult.
To Niceville’s defense, which entered the season to the hype of nine returning starters.
To its coaching staff, reconfigured after the retirement of John Hicks.
To the back-to-back standing-room-only crowds at Eagle Stadium, always rocking with silly string celebrations, drum lines and '80s anthems being serenaded by the student section.
Mosley left Niceville 15-0 losers last week. This Friday, Choctaw was a 41-0 running-clock victim.
That’s eight quarters of scoreless football. 96 minutes. 5,760 seconds.
This, the early weeks of the season, are where learning curves are pardoned.
Yet there hasn’t been one open-field tackle missed. Not a simple cross up in communication to allow a receiver open deep.
Instead, delving deeper into the numbers behind the shutouts, Niceville allowed just 46 yards to Mosley and 86 to Choctaw.
Six first downs to Mosley and five to Choctaw.
Negative three rushing yards total through two games.
“This defense, it’s the cohesion,” defensive tackle Logan Schaeffer said. “Just like last week, it’s crazy. We keep building and building.”
Two weeks in, the Eagles haven’t allowed one single red zone trip — the closest instance coming after Niceville muffed a punt just outside the 20, yet Mosley was pushed back 20-plus yards in a turnover on downs.
“They’re special,” Niceville first-year coach Grant Thompson said. “They have a chance to be really good if they play for the program and not that individual glory. If they continue to buy in, the sky’s the limit.”
Choctaw (1-1) entered coming off a 29-13 win of Pace that featured 231 yards and two scores from quarterback Ezra McKenna and a pair of touchdowns from running back Mario Banks.
Niceville (2-0), edging Choctaw 17-14 last year, wasn’t hearing it as the Eagles limited Banks and Choctaw’s rushing attack to -5 yards.
“Last year was a close game but this year we didn’t come out underestimating them this time,” Niceville linebacker Aidan Dark said. “It’s just about hard work in practice, good conditioning and team effort.”
Meanwhile the Eagles offense figured out its Week 1 struggles.
Will Koch carved the Indians up for three touchdowns and 222 yards in less than three quarters, the senior throwing a 50-yard touchdown to Michael Presstari and a 5-yard score to Dominic Annichiarico. All while rushing for 114 yards, including an 11-yard score, to highlight a rushing effort that featured 75 yards and a score from lead back Shawn Parker and 293 total yards.
Koch’s teammates are in awe.
“First off, Will is an amazing leader — in the locker room, the field, the classroom,” Schaeffer said. “Seeing him run, just how determined he is after coming back from that injury, he’s looking great out there.”
Even the backups were carving up Choctaw. Trey Wainwright threw a 31-yard touchdown to Nick Morrison and Verran Betts added a 12-yard score.
STAT OF THE NIGHT: 8
That’s the win streak Niceville has over Choctaw, which last defeated the Eagles in 2012 in a 31-28 thriller. Ever since, the Eagles have outscored the Indians 314-131.
OFFENSIVE MVP: Will Koch
What can the 6-foot-3 playmaker not do?
A week after piling up 159 yards and a pair of scores, he rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown and threw for two more scores and 108 yards.
“They gotta respect my arm and then I can just run the ball whenever,” Koch said.
Exemplifying the strength of his right arm was a 40-yard strike to Michael Prestarri four plays into the night that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown.
“We got a concept on the right where they hold the safety and then it’s one-on-one with the corner,” Koch said. “Easy throw, easy catch.”
Then, just to show his running chops as the Eagles faced a third-and-20 from his own 10, Koch tucked it, followed a hole up the middle and 25 yards later had the Eagles a first down.
“Third and long, we needed a big play,” Koch said. “We’re set to pass and nothing is open, so it’s a good play scrambling with my feet and making a big play.”
DEFENSIVE MVP: Aidan Dark
The senior linebacker has lived up to the Dandy Dozen hype and then some.
A week after leading the Eagles with 13 tackles, Dark posted another double-digit tackles output and was an integral part of yet another shutout.
Choctaw coach Greg Thomas on the three Choctaw turnovers, two of which came on special teams: “You can’t give a team like Niceville extra opportunities. It just kind of snowballed after each quarter and got worse and worse.
“We just weren’t executing on either side of the ball and we’re glad it’s just the second game of the year.”
Niceville travels to non-district rival FWB and Steve Riggs Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“Playing Okaloosa County football teams right off the bat,” Thompson said. “That’s a good Fort Walton team and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Choctaw hosts Gulf Breeze at Joe Etheredge Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“We played them in the Fall Classic and the do things well, coached well,” Thomas said. “If we play like today … man, hopefully we bounce back.”
- Jordan Fowler and Dramarian McNulty were ejected after leaving the box to help with a sideline scuffle, which did not evoke the best emotions from Niceville’s coaching staff on the sideline and in the postgame huddle.
- Parker now has 190 all purpose yards on the season and a score.
- Running backs coach/offensive coordinator Adron Robinson grabbed Verran Betts in the waning minutes on the sideline and told him he better get his touchdown. Betts did just that.
- Sami Mims was a notable alumna on the sideline, the former all-area volleyball standout enjoying a trip back home due to Hurricane Dorian.