EASTPOINT – Under darkened skies that slowly gave way to broiling heat, the North Bay Haven Buccaneers and Franklin County Seahawks battled it out Saturday in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine.
When all was said and done, North Bay Haven’s Jeff Lee had his first win in two years, as his squad downed the Seahawks 23-12 in the contest, postponed from Friday night.
Both teams found themselves by penalties early on, highlighted by a fourth down pass interference call in the end zone that sustained a North Bay Haven drive in the red zone. Following that, junior Cooper Lovett nailed a 22-yard field goal with 9:13 left in the first quarter, for a 3-0 lead..
The subsequent Seahawk drive was thwarted on downs deep in Buccaneer territory. North Bay Haven sophomore Justin Bayless took the handoff on first down and rambled 70 yards, destined for a touchdown, until Seahawk sophomore cornerback Ethan Riley stripped the ball, and Franklin County recovered.
The score stayed knotted at 3 until midway through the second quarter, when senior Kai Thaxton was able to twist and turn his way in to the end zone from 20 yards out. Lovett nailed the extra point for a 10-0 lead at the half.
The Seahawks took the kickoff to start the second half, and drove deep in Buccaneer territory behind the running attack of senior Tyler Howard, junior Dalyn Sheridan and sophomore Ethan Riley.
But a fumble on a first and goal at the 2 gave the Buccaneers back the ball, but they were unable to mount a drive.
With eight minutes left in the quarter, the Buc defense blocked a Christopher Newell punt, setting up a first down at the Seahawk 25. Two plays later, sophomore Ray Tynan lofted a 25-yard scoring strike to senior Cody Meeks, and a 16-0 lead.
“North Bay Haven is much improved from last year,” said Seahawks first-year coach Randy Brock. “Our lack of experience with a sophomore-heavy team has been our Achilles tendon in the crucial moments of the game. Mistakes and missed assignment got us.”
Late in the third quarter, the Seahawks’ Riley broke through for a 40-yard ramble into the end zone. But the Buccaneers countered minutes later when Thaxton zoomed in from 35 yards out, and a 23-6 lead.
“Ethan Riley was a bright spot for us on offense, carrying much of the load, and on defense Tonner Segree and Micah Mcleod made many tackles, both of whom are also sophomores,” said Brock.
With five minutes left in the game, the Seahawks’ Howard ran the ball 56 yards into the end zone but the play was called back for holding. Three minutes later, he again bolted for a 60-plus yard run, and then ran it in from six yards out, to narrow the margin to 23-12, but that was all the Buccaneer defense would allow.