It was one of those years for Franklin County High Schools that can be split into two halves.
The first half everybody will long remember; the second half everyone would like to forget.
At the start of the year, the Seahawks, flush with the Brathwaite brothers who transferred in from Long Island, New York and joined an already solid team, and coached by Nathan West, a former assistant college basketball coach, continued their standout season.
They ended up defeating Port St. Joe twice in the regular season, and twice in the district and regional playoffs, to earn a Class 1A Final Four appearance in Lakeland for the first time in a decade.
It was a moment of glory that was embraced by the entire county.
And in the spring, coach Scott Collins’ softball girls had an outstanding season, before being knocked off in the post-season.
But by the summer, things started going not so well.
Seahawks football coach Tony Yeoman had not been re-hired, and by the spring was replaced by a new, untested coach Josh Palmer.
West announced that he was going to Georgia to coach at a prestigious private school, and while he recommended Ray Bailey replace him, the school board decided Bailey’s lack of proper teaching certification, similar to Yeomans’ situation, stood in the way of his hire.
Palmer got the Seahawks off to a steady, if not distinguished start on the gridiron, but soon cracks started to surface. Three of his players decided to transfer to Port St. Joe mid-season, which led to his using a bevy of young, untested players.
By the second half of the season, Principal Michael Sneed, with the backing of Superintendent Traci Moses, decided to cancel the last two games, shocking the community.
One good thing did surface with fall sports, though, as Mike Todd’s boys golf team, led by Cale Barber and Tyler Rainwater, had the best season ever in the history of that sport at the high school. Rainwater even bested his former teammate, Wakulla Christian freshman Justus Jones, in a one-hole playoff to win the District 2-1A golf title, while Barber dominated his age group in the Red Hills Junior Golf tour.
Coach Kam Ashabranner got his boys basketball Seahawks off to a good start, and the girls team, under the helm of Rob Wheetley, also started winning. Paul Bankston’s middle school girls even brought him his first title as coach of the team at the new high school.
But several weeks into the season, star guard Lamarius Martin, a standout for the Seahawks from his earliest years in middle school, decided he too would transfer to St. Joe, where he quickly became the Tiger Sharks’ leading scorer.
The Seahawks don’t plan to roll over, and are regrouping, but Martin’s loss adds to their challenge going into 2020.
To add to the sports woes, both the boys and girls soccer teams, still winless, endured an embarrassing moment when boys assistant coach Danny Carrino was disciplined by the Florida High School Athletic Association for having appeared in a game, dressed as a player. He was ruled ineligible to coach for an entire year, and Sneed added a three-day suspension to the head coach for having allowed it to happen.
What does the future hold for Seahawks’ sports? Only good things, we hope.