Fort Walton Beach wins season-opening shootout at Pace 31-27

Fort Walton Beach wins season-opening shootout at Pace 31-27

After opening night, the Fort Walton Beach Vikings are already halfway to matching their win total from last season.

Fort Walton Beach picked up a 31-27 win over host Pace on Friday at Pace High School Stadium, and the Vikings needed a fourth-quarter comeback drive to pull it off.

After leading all the way until the waning moments of the third quarter, second-year coach Phil Dorn and his Vikings had to go into comeback mode in order to finish what they started.

Dorn said his team overcame mistakes all night to come out victorious.

"We had a good week of practice and we were focused on trying to be 1-0 this week, that's what we talked about," he said. "The kids just gave great effort, and I tell you what, great heart they showed throughout the game. We overcame a lot of mistakes tonight to hang in there. That's a good football team and this is a tough place to win."

Pace couldn't get out of its own way in the first half with three lost fumbles.

But the Patriots stayed in it, and a 57-yard touchdown pass from Kason Lincke to Camaron Rohling with under two minutes to go in the second half made it 14-14, which would be the score when the halftime buzzer went off.

Right after halftime, Fort Walton Beach senior running back Kenyon Redmon found pay dirt for the second time in the game with an explosive 86-yard TD run to put FWB ahead 21-14.

But led by the hard-nosed running of Jack Myers, Pace responded. Myers capped off a long drive when he scored from a few yards out to re-tie the game midway through the third quarter.

The see-saw battle continued when the Vikings booted through a 43-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to make it 24-21 with 5:16 left in the third.

Then, to make it four scores on four straight drives, Lincke threw a pinpoint pass to receiver Tre' Neely in the corner of the end zone from about 15 yards out to give Pace its first and last lead of the game, 27-24, after three quarters of play.

But Vikings quarterback Brendon Carter and the Vikings weren't quite finished.

Despite back-to-back delay-of-game penalties on the drive, FWB was able to march down into Pace territory and score what would wind up being the game-winning touchdown when Roderick Willis rushed into the end zone with 7:38 on the clock in the fourth quarter to make it 31-27.

"We had some good plays by our quarterback to help us get back on our feet after those mistakes," Dorn said. "We gotta be a little better there than what we were, but at least the kids had some resilience there to come back and make plays."

Dorn also said Carter took some hard hits and was a little banged up after the game, but he and the entire team were smiling regardless.

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"He's off to a good start in his senior year and he'll keep getting better from here," Dorn said of his QB. "We'll get back and heal our wounds and he'll keep getting better from here."

The Patriots and their running game got down to about the Vikings' 30-yard line but stalled. On 4th and 4, they tried a flea flicker to no avail, as their wide receiver slipped and fell down after getting past the defense.

Carter and the Vikings then killed out the remaining three minutes of the game. That clock-killing effort was highlighted by an amazing 15-yard reception by Hudson Robinson on the sideline on 3rd and 13, and also a heads-up play by Carter to slide inbounds and keep the clock running just a few plays after Robinson's grab.

The Vikings try to go 2-0 when they play Arnold in their home opener.

Pace is at home again next week and tries to shake off the loss when it welcomes the Pensacola Tigers into town.

Both of those games are on September 1st.

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