It has been 48 years since Gulf Breeze lost to Milton 36-6 in the fall of my senior year. I honestly haven’t gotten over it just yet.
I was there in 2002 when the Crestview football team beat Milton twice on the way to the Class 3A championship game. Even so, that was a good Milton football team.
The Panthers I despised were coached by Milton legend Hurley Manning. If you like power football on offense and defense, you would love the Manning coached teams.
In recent years it has been hard to grasp how Milton has struggled. This year that is especially true about the Milton defense. In back-to-back games against Gulf Breeze on Sept. 15 and Escambia on Sept. 22, the Panthers gave up 110 points.
When I first heard Guld Breeze scored 73 points against Milton, I thought it was a joke. When I witnessed Escambia’s five touchdown effort in a 37-0 beat down of the Panthers, I knew it was real.
Since Crestview and Baker both had an open date on Sept. 22, I volunteered to help our sister paper in Milton cover the Panther game against Escambia. I wanted to get a look at Milton before Crestview plays the Panthers in a few weeks.
Standing on the Milton sideline, I saw no player that struck fear into me as an old Dolphin. I honestly didn’t see a Milton player that had a WOW factor.
Six games into the season, teams have scored 197 points against the 2-4 Panthers. All the points have been scored against the Panthers in the four losses.
Will the Bulldogs beat the Panthers? That, I don’t know.
It just seems strange thinking there is anything average in a Milton DNA.
Hurley Manning drove me crazy, but he made football in Northwest Florida fun. He had a way about him that brought about a disgust and hate for his teams coupled with a big dose of admiration.
When you beat Milton in the 1970s, you knew you had a good, perhaps great team. And nobody had to be pumped up when they saw the Milton game was next in line.
Time marches on though. Hurley Manning is now in his late 80s and his players and those that played against his Milton teams are now 60-something.
I miss that feeling I associated with Milton. I loved to hate the Panthers and what they represented to the
Gulf Breeze Dolphins when my school was young and so were my classmates and myself.
The Milton mystique is gone. But in some ways it will never completely die for those of us that remember those Panther teams way back when.