FORT WALTON BEACH — After two weeks on the road and a preseason mired by stadium closure talks, Choctaw will see an old friend Friday night.
Yep, Joe Etheredge Stadium will be a welcomed sight.
The 5A Indians will host 6A Gulf Breeze for a 7 p.m. kickoff, each team looking to right the ship.
The Dolphins, which lost star running back Ty Dittmer to graduation in the offseason, enter 0-2 after a 28-21 loss at Navarre (2-0) and a 24-14 setback at home to Pensacola Catholic (2-0).
The Indians, meanwhile, are looking to recapture the swagger from a season-opening 29-13 victory at Pace (0-2) after being on the wrong side of a 41-0 defeat at Niceville (2-0).
Against the Eagles, nothing was working.
The special teams coughed it up twice as part of a three-turnover effort, Mario Banks and the backfield didn’t even net positive yards and Ezra McKenna, fresh off a two-score, 231-yard effort at Pace, was bottled up.
Credit Niceville, Thomas said. But the Indians also got in their own way more times than not.
“You can’t give a team like Niceville extra opportunities,” said Thomas, whose team has lost eight straight to the Eagles. “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.”
Getting back into the win column will be contingent on two things: containing dual-threat Ryland Murray and Trever Nelson and getting McKenna back in rhythm with his ample weapons
Murray hasn’t gotten the Dolphins’ aerial attack going with just 170 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, but he’s rushed for two scores to accent 207 rushing yards and a touchdown from Nelson.
"We saw them in the Kickoff Classic, so we're familiar with them," Thomas said. "They have some playmakers and we can't afford to play like we did against Niceville."
McKenna, standing 6-foot-6, had only 17 snaps in the first half against Niceville. By that point it was 20-0.
Come Friday he’ll look to use that adversity and spread the love to playmakers like Roland Clay, Jimmy Hart and D.T. Grant. And that will open up the running lanes for Banks, who had two touchdown runs against Pace.