Tension and a slight breeze hung in the air as Niceville fans dressed in black ensembles poured through the gates of Eagle Stadium on Friday evening. Chants of “overrated” were so loud that they could be heard from across the street and a packed stadium buzzing with energy set the tone for the night.
After venturing to Tallahassee to take on Chiles last Friday, the Eagles returned to the Nest eager for their first matchup against an Okaloosa County school this season, namely, Choctaw. The long-standing rivalry was evident, as the stands of the visitor’s section were full, painted in varying shades of green. Choctaw students also followed their team to Niceville, bringing an energetic student section.
Before the game started, NHS principal Charlie Marello had a surprise waiting for one unsuspecting young Eagle fan. With the help of the cheerleaders, Mr. Marello welcomed 5th grader Aubrey Inman onto the field. In a perfectly executed reveal, it was announced that Aubrey’s wish to go to Disney World was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Soon after, the game was underway. The majority of the first quarter was scoreless, that is, until Eagles running back #8 DJ Robinson ran the ball for a touchdown, followed by a successful point after kicker Logan Marise.
With a 7-0 lead, the Eagles headed into the second quarter strong and ready to score. However, only a few minutes into the quarter, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, and a point after for the Indians tied the game at 7-7. But in typical Eagle fashion, Maddax Fayard ran the ball for a touchdown.
With only a few moments left on the clock, the Eagles ended the first half with a bang, as a completed pass by quarterback Kane LaFortune to Robert Stith resulted in a touchdown for Niceville, which was followed by a successful two-point conversion by Maddax Fayard, leaving the Eagles up 21-7 going into halftime.
The halftime show started with a performance by Choctaw’s marching band, who were soon both outnumbered and outshined by Niceville’s award-winning band- The Eagle Pride. As with every performance by the Eagle Pride, their halftime show was comparable to that of a collegiate marching band.
The third quarter began with Niceville’s renowned student section tradition. Cases of silly string were passed around the student section, and more students than ever came prepared with confetti and colored chalk cannons. The drumline was playing as loud as ever, and the blackout game theme provided a beautiful canvas that contrasted the neon colors of confetti, chalk, and silly string that filled the air, resulting in the most beautiful tradition so far this season. Soon after the confetti settled, the crowd roared as Kane LaFortune completed a pass to DJ Robinson for Niceville’s fourth touchdown of the night. The final four minutes of the third quarter brought nail-biting suspense as both the Eagle’s Robert Stith and the Indian’s Malachi Lewis scored within the narrow timeframe, leaving the scoreboard at 35-14 as the game’s final quarter arrived.
The fourth quarter saw no lack of action, energy, and fan attendance. Eagle Stadium erupted as loud if not louder than the beginning of the game as #21 Uriah West ran the ball for a touchdown, leaving Niceville 27 points ahead of Choctaw. With just a few minutes left in the game, Choctaw’s #1 Isaiah Johnson ran the ball for the night’s final touchdown, leaving the Eagles with a 42-21 over the Indians.
The game’s energy was indescribable, and the fan’s passion and everlasting support for Niceville Football was evident all night. The Eagle’s offense, a weak point for the team, drastically improved from earlier games, just in time for next Friday’s faceoff against the Crestview Bulldogs at Eagle Stadium, arguably the most intense and long-awaited matchup of this season, as the Eagles are seeking revenge for last year’s playoff loss against the Bulldogs.