Franklin County pounced on four Wewahitchka fumbles Friday night to give the Seahawks the edge in a 27-26 comeback win.
Junior quarterback Dwayne Griggs paced the Seahawk offense with three touchdowns, the finale set up after the Seahawks forced a Gator punt with time running down. Griggs snared the punt at midfield and then galloped 35 yards to the Gator 21 with less than four minutes to play.
He ran in untouched on the first play from scrimmage, but that was called back on penalties. So he did it again, a thrilling 12-yard jog with 2:08 left in the game, for the go-ahead score.
His team trailing by one, Wewahitchka sophomore quarterback Rashard Rainie threw three incomplete passes before connecting on a 17-yarder to junior tight end Javar Hill for a first down at the Seahawk 33.
Two quick passes to senior Jarvest Sherfield gave Wewa a third and five in the red zone with 44 seconds left, but an interception by junior defensive back Logan McLeod sealed the comeback victory for the Seahawks.
“They gave us a lot of breaks, they gave us the ball a lot,” said Seahawks coach Josh Wright. “Our kids played stinking hard.”
Wewahitchka struck first blood after sophomore defensive back Matt Arnold intercepted a Griggs pass to give the Gators position inside Seahawks territory. With 10:22 left in the first quarter, Rainie lobbed a high throw to 5’11 senior Jay Shiver for the score and a 6-0 gator lead.
Griggs, who finished the night with 153 yards on 11 carries, followed suit, after senior Ladarius Rhodes and junior Holden Foley each recovered Gator fumbles within the space of two minutes. With 3:18 left in the first quarter, Griggs ran 39 yards for the score. Senior kicker Zach Howze connected on the first of three extra points, and the Seahawks led 7-6.
With 1:03 left in the half, the Gators boosted their lead, with a 30-yard pass from Rainie to Hill. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete, and Wewa clung to a 12-7 lead going into halftime.
On the opening play of the second half, Sherfield did all he could to break the game wide open, as he ran the kickoff back 89 yards for the score. But once again the extra point conversion try failed, and the Gators led 18-7
A 40-yard rush by Griggs to the five-yard-line positioned fullback Rhodes to bully his way in for the score with 4:30 left.
A fumble recovery by senior tackle Direek Farmer on the Seahawk 30 gave Rhodes and senior Skyler Hutchinson a chance to chew up yards. The drive downfield ended when Griggs scored his second touchdown of the night on a 30-yard prance, and a 21-18 lead with 1:10 left in the third quarter.
The Seahawks managed a fourth fumble recovery on their own 22-yard line, this time by Hutchinson early in the fourth quarter, but the Wewa defensive pressure that followed enabled the Gators to take over on downs deep in Seahawks territory.
Senior running back Jalyn Addison rushed from the six-yard-line for the score, and the Gators connected on the two-point conversion to put Wewa ahead 26-21 with 9:14 left to play.
Hutchinson, who had to be pulled from the game late in the fourth quarter with turf toe, tallied 75 yards on 17 carries, and Rhodes 55 yards on four carries, as the Seahawks amassed 283 yards on the ground on 32 carries. Sophomore Kelsey Jones also had a 24-yard kickoff return.
Griggs completed just two of 10 tosses, for 19 yards, a 13-yarder to sophomore Kelsey Jones and a six-yarder to Foley. He also threw three interceptions, and coughed up the ball on one occasion.
Defensively, Griggs, Farmer and Jones paced the team with seven tackles each, followed by senior David Butler with six, and McLeod and Rhodes each with five.
Wright also had high praise for the special teams, and for the punting skills of senior Dan Carrino.
“We were smart,” he said. “We punted the ball better they we have. Our punts were awesome and we covered our punts.”
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Seahawks, evening their record at 1-4 with the Gators.
“We had an early season meltdown of mental approach and some egos,” said Wright. “We’ve smoothly worked that out.”
On Friday night, the Seahawks host the Port St. Joe Sharks in a 1A District 4 bout. The Sharks enter the bout with a 2-2 record after their 28-20 non-league win over Holmes County last Friday.