FORT WALTON BEACH — Phil Dorn and the Vikings have no plans to hang their heads this season.
A 29-17 loss to Niceville this past Friday stings, sure, but not quite like the 42-0 drubbing the Eagles handed Fort Walton Beach a year ago.
In fact, by comparison, the 12-point loss to a perennial power like Niceville showed just how much the Vikings have grown since this time last year, said Dorn, the Vikings coach.
“I think that for the most part, a lot of positive things came out of it,” Dorn said. “I think we saw a lot of good things that we were able to look at and say we can build on that for our future and for the rest of our season.”
Chief among those positives, Dorn said, was the Vikings’ effort. Trailing at halftime for the second week in a row, Fort Walton Beach (2-1 overall) again didn’t quit, scoring 10 points in the second half on Joshua Brazzel’s 35-yard field goal and Brady Bachmann’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Brenden Robertson.
Bachmann finished his night with a not unrespectable 212 yards on 14 of 25 passing with one touchdown and one interception, the latter part a three-turnover night for the Vikings, which Dorn said took Fort Walton Beach out of the game.
“We’ve gotta get those mistakes corrected,” he said. “You have to to win any of those games. Those are the things were working on this week.”
Correcting mistakes becomes all the more important now that the Vikings are headed into District 1-6A play and set to host Milton (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Steve Riggs Stadium, the Panthers coming off a near upset of Navarre this past Friday
“They’re a good football team,” Dorn said. “They’ve got a solid defense, a solid offense and they’re well coached. I think it’s gonna be a very back-and-forth close game just like we saw last week.”
Dorn had high praise in particular for the interior of Milton’s defensive line, as well as its strongside linebacker. The Panther defense rallies to the ball quickly and managed to shut out Navarre’s high-octane offense in the second half of a 21-13 loss this past Friday, forcing three turnovers.
Marlon Courtney, Navarre’s senior quarterback, went just 10 of 14 for 174 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Offensively, the Panthers nearly completed their comeback against Navarre on the arm of Noah Wingate. A senior, Wingate completed 6 of 11 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown pass to freshman Raymond Cottrell in relief of starter Tyler Buchanan, who injured his left leg early in the first quarter. Wingate also ran for more than 80 yards.
Dorn said no matter who starts Friday, the Vikings plan to attack Milton’s ground game first.
“They’ve been mixing up their offense and performing pretty well, so it’s a matter of being consistent out there and stopping the run first to see if we can make ’em one-dimensional to win the game,” Dorn said.
“The team that comes out there and plays the best Friday is gonna win the game.”