South Walton was the better of a pair of Seahawks Friday night, as they snapped a season-long losing streak with a 37-10 win over Franklin County.
Sophomore quarterback Johnathan Ortner punctured the pass defense with a 19-for-26 performance for 219 yards and three touchdowns, handing Phil Tisa his first win after nine losses in his inaugural season as South Walton head coach.
“Those were a hard 10 weeks,” he said. “It was a rough schedule, seven of the 10 teams on our schedule are in the playoffs, but we stayed together and got better each week. During those nine losses I never lost those kids wanting to play for me and that lets me sleep at night.”
The visiting Seahawks spotted the hometown ones a field goal early on, when senior Zach Howze nailed a 29-yarder with 5:16 left in the first quarter.
Franklin County sophomore Cameron White managed an interception in the first half, and a 15-yard runback, but no scoring resulted. South Walton added 16 unanswered points before halftime, including successfully completing the team’s first field goal attempt of the year with no time left on the clock, when freshman Joe Ledo-Massey split the uprights from 27 yards out.
With 2:15 left in the first quarter, Ortner threw a 15-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Drew Pheiffer for South Walton’s first touchdown. Pheiffer finished the night with eight receptions for 132 yards.
Pheiffer also snared an interception that set up a 39-yard scoring scamper by senior running back Brandon Whalen with 6:36 left in the third quarter. Whalen, who led the team with 10 carries on 59 yards, also put himself into position to finish tops among Walton County ball carriers for the year, with more than 700 yards on the ground.
South Walton’s second score came in the first minute of the second quarter, when Ortner connected with junior running back Sage Roberts on a four-yard pass for the score. Ledo-Massey failed on the extra point try when the snap went awry.
With 8:18 left in the third quarter, Ortner lofted a high 15-yard heave to senior wide receiver Bishop Waldrop for his third touchdown pass, with Ledo-Massey booting his second of four extra points of the night.
South Walton wrapped up its scoring with 10:43 left in the game, when senior wide receiver Hampton Schaffer ran it in from the one-yard-line for a 37-3 lead.
Franklin County, who fell to 2-7, 1-3, on the year, offered fans some excitement late in the game, when senior lineman Mason Ray recovered a fumble on the team’s own 30-yard line.
On the opening play of their next possession, Franklin County junior quarterback Logan McLeod, filling in for the injured starter Dwayne Griggs, threw to junior tailback Mercury Wynn for an 80-yard touchdown play, with 1:07 left in the game.
McLeod completed four-of-13 passes, for 97 yards and one touchdown, and was intercepted twice.
Senior Ladarius Rhodes led the team with 12 rushes for 79 yards, while senior Skyler Hutchinson ran a dozen times for 35 yards. Hutchinson caught three passes for 13 yards, and Rhodes one for four yards.
McLeod and Rhodes led the team with six tackles each.
In addition to Rhodes, Howze and Hutchinson, seniors honored in the pre-game ceremonies were David Butler, Chase Golden, Karl Sanford, Tevin Jones, Jeff Murray, and Daniel Carrino.
Senior drum major Stephanie Marxsen was also honored as were cheerleaders Roxana Barahona, Cheyenne Diorio and Cheyenne Martin, who also performs with the band.
Franklin County Coach Josh Wright named Rhodes and Wynn Offensive Players of the Game, and tackle Buddy Jones as Defensive Player of the Week.