PANAMA CITY BEACH — Nearly a year ago to the day, Arnold opened up its District 1-5A season against Bay at Gavlak Stadium and came away with a 26-16. On Friday night at Gavlak, the two Bay County rivals squared off again in the league opener with nearly an identical score line, though it was a different team leaving the field happy.

The Marlins got a big rushing night from junior quarterback Cade Ledman and senior running back Jerian Hardrick, as well as some big plays from their defense to defeat the Tornadoes 26-14. Arnold moves to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in district, while Bay drops to 1-3 and 0-1 in league play.

Ledman had a tough night throwing the ball, completing just 7 of 24 passes for 111 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he more than made up for it on the ground with 170 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts. Hardrick also added 98 yards on 20 carries, with 45 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a huge win,” Arnold coach Josh Wright said. “I can’t say enough about these senior captains and leaders and how they rose up tonight all over the field. The quarterback is growing up and becoming a better leader. Guys want to rally behind him and now he’s taking it to the next level as a quarterback.

“It came down to some big plays. (Bay) made some and we made some, but we made a few more. It’s great to be 1-0 in district and beat a team that we couldn’t last year.”

The game featured a handful of big plays on both sides, as well as its share of negative ones. The Tornadoes turned the ball over four times, all in the first half, while the Marlins had two giveaways as well.

Despite the four first-half turnovers, the Tornadoes were tied at halftime thanks to a 2-yard touchdown run by Blayne Watkins after an Arnold turnover at its own 15-yard line, and a 79-yard touchdown pass from Watkins to Zander Lovchuk on a 2nd and 34 play with 3:54 left in the second quarter.

After opening the scoring in the first quarter with a 67-yard touchdown on Arnold’s first series, Ledman started the third with another long run, this time scampering 73 yards down the right sideline to the end zone. The extra point by Javier Elias made it 21-14.

The Arnold defense came up big later in the quarter following an interception by Ledman, stopping Bay on a 4th and 1 from the Marlins’ 10-yard line when Terry Byers dropped Watkins for a 1-yard loss with 4:41 on the clock.

Two series later, the Marlins salted the game away with a 10-play, 64-yard drive that ate up nearly eight minutes of game clock and resulted in a 21-yard field goal by Elias to put the Marlins up 24-14 with 2:49 remaining. The defense put an exclamation point on the victory on Bay’s next series, with Trajan Holmes sacking Watkins in the end zone for a safety with 57.4 seconds on the clock.

Watkins finished 13 of 26 for 123 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, while Keith Hayes led the team in rushing with 35 yards on seven carries. Lovchuk finished with seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown.

“They kicked out butt,” Tornadoes coach Mike Watkins said. “They just outplayed us. I’m proud of a lot of my guys. They kept fighting, but we just didn’t come out on top, so hats off to (the Marlins).”

Thomas Risvalto, Clay Parker, and Daveno Ellington all had interceptions for the Arnold defense, while Takari Plummer had an interception for Bay. Ellington also led Arnold in receiving with four catches for 91 yards and a 65-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Arnold is off next week before returning to action Sept. 29 against Mosley at Bozeman. Bay travels on Friday to Tallahassee to play Chiles.