Depleted by the transfer to Port St. Joe of three of its seniors, and the absence of its quarterback who flirted briefly with the idea, the Seahawks fell 43-0 at Sneads Friday.
But Seahawks coach Josh Palmer isn’t chalking up the loss to the transfers,
“Do we maybe get on the board a little more with them? Probably,” he said. “At the end of the day they were a well-coached team. Sneads is just a great program, hats off to coach Thomas.”
Bill Thomas cut his teeth as coach for the Apalachicola Sharks and has gone on to bring the Sneads program to prominence, which was amply displayed at their senior night, when they paid tribute to a squad loaded with 15 seniors.
“That’s a good team we faced, they’re probably going to go deep in the playoffs,” said Palmer, of the still undefeated Sneads squad.
With the score 21-0 after the first quarter, and 35-0 at the half, the Seahawks were overwhelmed by a dominating force in their opponents. “We had a little bit here and there,” said Palmer. “They had a really good game plan to shut us down.”
Three senior linemen - Zander McCalpin, Nic Hutchins and Jose Aguilar – as well as starting quarterback Lamarius Martin, all took advantage of the bye week to transfer to the Gulf County school, although Martin decided to return, albeit too late to immediately step back into his starting role.
“With all the personnel changes we’ve been making, we had to make some adjustments,” said Palmer. “Yeah, we lost but I think we really came together as a team.”
Palmer brought in freshman quarterback Wyatt Abercrombie to take snaps, and even had juniors Eden Brathwaite and Charlee Winchester taking snaps as part of different formations.
Stepping into offensive linemen roles were juniors Kelson Smith and Blake Chastain, with sophomore Austin Staats as wide receiver and sophomore Weston Bockelman at defensive back.
Abercombie managed a 30-yard pass play to Brathwaite early on, but there wasn’t too much offensive success overall.
The senior transfers rattled the program and even led to Superintendent Traci Moses calling up Gulf County Superintendent Jim Norton to inquire into the matter.
Players are free to transfer at any time, and can continue to take part in athletics at their new school, but whether they are free to continue inside of an ongoing season involves some constraints based on Florida High School Athletic Association rules.
A dependent child of active duty military personnel whose move resulted from military orders is entitled to continue playing in their respective sport, as are those whose relocation is due to a foster care placement in a different school zone or a court-ordered change in custody due to separation or divorce, or the serious illness or death of a custodial parent.
It’s the fourth exception where it gets tricky, which is in cases where it’s “authorized for good cause in the district or charter school policy.”
Moses said she inquired with the FHSAA as to what constitutes “good cause,” and they were told that it’s pretty much up to each district to make the rules.
“If the district deems the move as a good cause, then they are allowed to start practice and play,” said Palmer. “The rule is general is a disservice to the kids. It doesn’t teach them anything about commitment or anything like that.
“What happened to growing up in community, and committing to that school win or lose?” he said. “With this rule it just allows kids to be able to transfer.
“It’s really killing the game of high school football, to hop on the winning bandwagon,” said Palmer. He noted that we was not alleging any recruitment violations by Port St. Joe.
“It wasn’t a football move. The reason why they were transferred was not due to football,” he said. “It’s just icing on the cake.
“You lose three guys like that, you have to start all over from scratch, you have to refigure everything,” said Palmer. “We’re here to play football, and just because we lose a couple guys doesn’t mean we’re not going out on Friday night and play our game. We’re still going to go out and play football, it may make it harder in the long run.”
Palmer said the team is working hard towards a victory Friday night for homecoming against the Liberty County Bulldogs, a team they beat 14-7 in the preseason.
“We’re trying to get our boys prepared to go out and win a ball game. We’re trying to end this season on a good note,” he said. “Liberty is going through struggles, it should be a good competitive game.
After that the team faces Cottondale and then Branford, and after that takes part in a new conference championship series.
“I still think we have a good chance to have a successful season,” said Palmer. “With the kids we have now there’s more of a unity, more of family atmosphere. The kids are stepping up to do the right thing.”