FREEPORT -- It was a dogfight to the end, but the South Walton Seahawks finished the victor, 35-21, for the first-time ever in the county-rival match with the Freeport Bulldogs in varsity football action.
"It was just perseverance," said a smiling South Walton Coach Phil Tisa as he had just dodged a water cooler of ice. "We just kept fighting. We had some turnovers … but we just kept playing."
Both teams were almost even when looking at the statistics. South Walton had 167 yards rushing and 212 through the air, while Freeport rushed for 163 yards and threw for 223 yards.
But when it was all said and done, turnovers were the difference in the game.
South Walton pulled down three interceptions and recovered two fumbles, while the Bulldogs grabbed one interception and recovered two fumbles.
On the opening kickoff, Freeport muffed the ball and South Walton's Austin Garofalo recovered it on the 37-yard line. Harrison Schaffer, who rushed seven times for 68 yards on the night, scored on the first play from scrimmage for a 37-yard run. Garofalo kicked in the point after and South Walton was up 7-0 just 20 seconds into the game.
The Seahawks scored again on their next possession with Zach Reese capping off a 10-play drive with a 21-yard run for the score. The kick after was good and it looked as if South Walton would run away with the game. Reese rushed 14 times for 64 yards on the night.
On South Walton's next possession, Freeport's Tyler Head picked off a Jonathon Ortner pass after it was tipped. Three plays later, the Bulldogs were on the board with Chase Caswell scoring on a 3-yard run. Matthew Blair kicked in the point after for a 14-6 game with 4:16 left in the first quarter. Caswell was the top Dog for Freeport with 108 yards in 20 carries.
The Bulldog defense kicked in and stopped the Seahawks and then scored again with David Godwin running it in from 10-yards out. The PAT was good for a 14-14 game.
In the second quarter, Freeport struck first to take their only lead of the game. The Bulldogs put together a nine play drive with Dillon Bates connecting with Godwin for a 55-yard TD reception. Blair kicked in the point after and the Dogs were on top.
South Walton stuttered on their next possession with Reese fumbling the ball and Freeport's Head making the recovery. The Seahawks stopped the Dogs and then struck quickly on a 37-yard pass play from Ortner to Vinnie Ciurleo. The PAT was good for a 21-21 game at the half.
At the end of the third quarter, South Walton's Carter Edwards picked off a Bulldog pass. On the Seahawks second down, Sage Roberts pulled in a one-handed catch from Ortner for a gain of 38 yards. Four plays later, Schaffer was scoring on a 19-yard run for the go ahead.
About midway of the fourth, South Walton's Ciurleo picked off a Freeport pass and ran it back about 15 yards. Three plays later, the Seahawks were in the end zone again, this time on a 35-yard run by Ortner. Garofalo kicked in the PAT for a 35-21 win.
Although the Bulldogs lost, Freeport Coach Jim Anderson was proud of his teams effort.
"You played with class and we had great effort … it just didn't go our way," Anderson told the team in the huddle after the game. "I'm always proud of you.
"It was a fine effort, I didn't see anybody quitting out there. You went as hard as you could. The key is we've got to eliminate mistakes."