EASTPOINT - Wewahitchka Gator Coach Loren Tillman liked the way his defense shaped up against Franklin County Friday night, controlling most of the game en route to a 38-21 win in the pre-season kickoff classic.
About the only soft spots were a pair of 50-plus yard touchdown runs by Franklin County senior speedster Tyler Howard, late in the second quarter, that had the Seahawks heading into the locker room ahead 15-14.
“In the spring game he did that to us about six times,” said Tillman, whose Gators edged the Seahawks 45-43 in Gulf County in the spring jamboree. “But we made some adjustments at halftime and we tried to break down on him.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Tillman’s starting lineup started making headway midway through the second quarter, and then capitalized when senior quarterback Jackson Vines hit junior Jacobi Jones with a 25-yard scoring strike in the right corner.
Sophomore quarterback Ethan Riley followed up with back-to-back first down passes to Howard, but that drive was stymied when senior cornerback Burley Parker intercepted at the Wewa 5 with 4:00 minutes left in the half.
Wewa widened its lead to 14-0 when Vines on a counter hit junior tailback Shannon Jones in the center of the field for a 65 yard touchdown.
Less than a minute later. a scrambling Howard dodged tackles for a 50 yard rushing touchdown, followed by Riley scooping up a bad snap and scoring the two-point conversion.
As the clock ran out, Howard rambled downfield about 60 yards for his second score of the night, and after junior kicker Yanni Pateritsas kicking the extra point, the Seahawks had a 15-14 lead.
From the start of the second half, though, a formidable Gator offensive line and steady defensive pressure made the difference.
“We didn’t come out with the fire we did in the first half, “said first-year Seahawk coach Randy Brock. “”They played eight men in the box all night. We got to block better, that’s all we can do.”
The Gators regained the lead with 7:34 left in the third quarter, when Jones sprinted down the right sideline 85 yards for the score and a 22-15 lead.
The Seahawks tightened it up to 22-21 when Riley ran it in from 20 yards out with two minutes left in the third.
But a touchdown pass from Vines to senior Brendon Crane with 10 minutes left to play widened the gap to 30-21, and senior Daniel Wymes finished the scoring with a 40 yard rushing touchdown with 4:21 left to play.
“It was a good step in the right direction tonight,” said Tillman. “We’ve kind of made some adjustments over the summertime and tried to put the kids into a defense that fits them. I really feel like this is more our personality and fits our team better.
“It’s a fun defense for the kids and it can be frustrating for the offense,” he said. “We shore up, and try to make people drive on us and not give up big plays. I expect big things.”
Brock said he plans to work harder on physical stamina.. “They’re not going to play themselves into shape. We got to condition more,” he said. “We’re outsized. We’re smaller but you got to work harder.
“They (Wewa) played to win. We got to start playing to win and finish,” said Brock.