The bright stadium lights lit up the Nest as thousands of Eagle fans poured through the stadium gates to support the Niceville High School football team as they went head to head with Bartram Trail in the Region 1-4S Semi-Final.
With the Eagles’ key linebacker Maddox Hayles, currently recovering
from an elbow injury, the game against Bartram Trail’s talented team was bound to be close.
At precisely 7 pm, Niceville kicked off to Bartram Trail, and the game began.
With the clock displaying about 8 minutes left in the first quarter, the Bears scored the first touchdown of the game, courtesy of Riley Trujillo.
The remainder of the quarter saw no additional points for either team, but
did include a Bartram Trail fumble recovered by Niceville and a missed field goal attempt by Bartram Trail.
Though the Eagles were trailing by 7 points heading into the second quarter, the score gap was soon closed as Niceville’s Uriah West recovered a Bartram Trail fumble for a touchdown,
followed by a successful point after a kick by Logan Marise.
A few minutes before the end of the first half, the Bears countered with a rushing touchdown, leaving the scoreboard displaying a 14-7 lead for the
away team as the whistle sounded, signaling the start of halftime.
The Niceville High School Eagle Pride spanned the field from endzone to endzone in a beautiful performance that could easily rival any halftime show by a Division I college band. The Eagle Pride will travel to Pasadena, California, in January to perform in the Rose Bowl Parade, an honor well deserved by the gifted band of over 200 members.
The third quarter started with the Niceville student section tradition as confetti floated above heads, silly string covered the bleachers, and blue chalk powder clouded the air. No additional points were scored for either team during the third quarter. However, both Niceville and Bartram Trail had a turnover on downs.
The Eagles headed into a nail-biting fourth quarter trailing behind the Bears by just 7 points. Just a few minutes into the final quarter, Niceville’s Maddax Fayard scored a one-yard rushing touchdown, which Logan Marise followed with a successful point-after kick, tieing the game at
14-14 and prompting the crowd to erupt into cheers and confetti to fill the sky above.
With about 7 minutes remaining in the game, Bartram Trail completed an 8-yard pass for a touchdown. Just minutes later, the Eagles countered with a receipt by Quarterback Kane LaFortune, completed to Maddax.
Fayard for a touchdown.
Tensions began to rise as the clock approached the final 5 minutes of the game, and the scoreboard displayed a 21-21 tie. Bartram Trail’s Riley Trujillo scored a 42-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Bears a lead of 28-21.
With the Eagle’s offense in possession of the ball and roughly 3 minutes remaining on the clock, the game was down to the wire. With less than one minute left, Bartram Trail recovered a fumble by Niceville, a devastating end to an excellent season for the Eagles football team.
“It’s been a tremendous season. It seems like [the team] always had challenges and adversity,” said Niceville Athletic Director Daniel Griffin. “they just continued to grow and started to believe in each other and put together a very respectful and commendable season.”
For the senior players on Niceville’s roster, this was their final game wearing maroon and white, and for those who do not move on to play at the collegiate level, it was likely the last game in their football career.
Maddax Fayard, A senior crucial to the offense’s success, reminisced at the game’s end. “It’s been a blast,” Fayard said, “The student section and atmosphere is just different than anywhere else. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more”.
Fayard plans to continue to play football at the collegiate level but has yet to decide which college offer he will accept. The team’s talented and accomplished senior kicker, Logan Marise, reflects on the experiences he gained through Niceville football with
gratitude, expressing that “The program was amazing. Everyone cares about you and wants you to get better and play for the team… Since starting my sophomore year, I’ve grown like crazy in more ways than
just football, and [I’ve] made friends…I am going to miss it.”
As for his future, Marise is looking to continue his football career as a college kicker but has yet to commit to a school.