A nasty behind-the-back goal from Jackson Kane. 

Eagles victorious over Gulf Breeze Lacrosse, look to top-flight contests for season wrap up

There’s a first time for everything – including beating the best panhandle lacrosse team for the last decade. The Eagles took their first-ever win over the Gulf Breeze Dolphins on March 26 to do just that. 

A much improved Niceville Eagles lacrosse team defeated Gulf Breeze 12-8 for a historic win. Niceville sported a 9-1 record coming into this game, while Gulf Breeze sat at 6-2. 

Last year Gulf Breeze won by a score of 12-7.

Gulf Breeze has been the top high school lacrosse team in the panhandle for several years. Players on both teams play against each other frequently in youth lacrosse league games over the last decade.

This year, squads like Niceville, Pensacola Catholic and Leon are vying to replace Gulf Breeze as the year’s best team in the Florida panhandle. 

March 24ths game was the first between these teams this year. Pensacola Catholic is in District 1 of the 1A league. Niceville, Gulf Breeze, and Leon are in District 1 of the 2A league and will likely face each other again in the District playoffs in April.

Niceville’s co-captain, Gavin Gifford managed the offense like a basketball point guard. 

 Christian Carlee drew the first blood for the Eagles. Gifford followed with two more goals to end the first quarter with a 3-1 Niceville lead.

 A resilient Gulf Breeze squad stormed back in the second quarter, outscoring Niceville 5-1. Gulf Breeze’s Austin Meckler showcased his ability to shoot with power and netted three goals in the rally. It would have been nice to have a speed gun measuring Mickler’s booming shots at Niceville’s goalie, Rhett Thorson. 

The game’s prettiest goal, though, came in the second quarter when Niceville’s Jackson Kane got free on the Gulf Breeze crease and scored a behind-the-back goal on a feed from Jake Ryan. The goal pumped up the Niceville team, but Gulf Breeze still went into the locker room with a tenuous 6-4 lead when the halftime whistle blew. 

In past games with Gulf Breeze – Niceville had been down at half but never rallied to win. This game would be different. Niceville became unstoppable in the third quarter – they scored seven goals to Gulf Breeze’s one. Freshman Ren Nielson, a wily player with a slight build, slithered through the defense and displayed box-lacrosse handling skills on his way to a three-goal-quarter. 

Gavin Gifford, Jackson Kane and Christian Carlee supplemented Nielsen’s goal streak in the third quarter to bring Niceville from behind to lead 11-7 at the end of the third quarter. 

The fourth quarter saw the same spirited play from both teams, but each team scored only one goal. The game stayed clean throughout and tactics were sound – a testament to solid coaching on both sides of the contest. 

Niceville’s Gavin Gifford led all scorers with four goals and one assist.

In the end, Niceville got an elusive first victory over Gulf Breeze and showed lion’s hearts in a second-half comeback.

Both teams have deep rosters to call on in big games that will occur when The 2A District 1 playoff begins in early April. 

Before the postseason – the Eagles still have unfinished business to attend to. Niceville has a gauntlet to run in its next three games. They’ll face perennial panhandle playoff powers Pensacola Catholic (10-1) on March 28 at home and the Leon Lions (9-1) on April 3 in Tallahassee. They will also host a spring break special against The Fellowship Christian (GA) Paladins on March 31 at home. 

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Box Score

Scores by QuarterQ1Q2Q3Q4F
Gulf Breeze15118
Individual StatsGoalsAssistsPoints  
#19 Gavin Gifford (Sr)415  
#32 Ren Nielson (Fr)314  
#2 Jackson Kane (Sr)213  
#3 Christian Carlee (Sr)213  
#9 Jake Ryan (So)112  
#8 Max Diehl (So)011  
Gulf BreezeGoalsAssistsPoints  
#5 Austin Mickler (So)303  
#21 Roger Ostrander (Sr)202  
#2 Colin Leveille (Sr)101  
Niceville – Rhett Thorson (Sr)142264%  
GB – Cody Lee (Jr)51729%

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