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Seahawks lose three straight dogfights

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

Sometimes losing can be a powerful lesson and the Franklin County Seahawks are learning it.

No longer the pushovers of years past, when lopsided scores often popped up on the sports pages, the Seahawks have lost three in a row by close margins, in it to the end but then, as they say, close but no cigar.

First it was a pair of closely-fought football games, at home on Oct. 9 at homecoming 24-20 against Cottondale, and Oct. 16 at Bronson 38-27.

Then on Friday night at Liberty County it was a 28-20 heartbreaker against the Bulldogs, in a game in which the Seahawks dug themselves out of a 21-0 hole they were buried in as early as four minutes into the second quarter.

"The first 15 minutes of the game we weren't there," said coach Dirk Strunk. "They came out and controlled the line of scrimmage for the first quarter. It was one of those things, we're slow out the gate.

"It's hard to explain because they weren't doing anything we weren't expecting them to do," he said. ''We regrouped at halftime and the kids came out and really played well in the second half."

In the Seahawks' first possession of the second half, senior quarterback Lamarius Martin scored from four-yards out, and then a few minutes later, tossed a six-yard aerial score to junior Weston Bockelman, 

Early in the fourth quarter, after intercepting a Franklin County pass at midfield, the Bulldogs got the lead back up to double digits when they capitalized on that turnover with a seven-yard touchdown sprint

But Franklin County jumped right back, when with seven minutes left in the game, Martin connected with Bockelman on a 55-yard touchdown run, and the Seahawks trailed 28-20.

With less than a minute left to play, the Seahawks were inside Liberty County's 15-yard line, but got no closer.

"We were driving when time ran out," said Strunk. 

For Liberty County, the win was an opener for Sunshine State Athletic Conference play, while Franklin County has opted out due to scheduling conflicts.

On Friday, the Seahawks will travel to Rocky Bayou in a regular season game, and then on Friday, Nov. 6, they will host Taylor County in the opener of the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs.

They win that, and they'll advance to a Nov. 13 matchup. If their post-season hopes end, then they're slated to play in a Nov. 21 bowl game in Panama City, against North Bay Haven.

"We're hoping to still be in the playoffs," said Strunk. "We can't afford to make mental mistakes and we have to execute. We have to come ready to play.

“We’re beginning to turn the corner,” he said. "The kids are playing hard and they’re seeing their hard work is paying off."

Coach Dirk Strunk huddles with his players during the Cottondale game
#1 Lamarius Martin exacts a tackle against Cottondale

Against Cottondale, the Seahawks led for most of the game, and were up 20-16 with 11 minutes left in the game.

In the first quarter sophomore Mason Moses had caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Evan Stanley, and then in the second quarter, Martin caught a four-yard pass from Stanley, and Bockelman a 20-yarder.

With a two-point conversion, the Seahawks led 20-16 at the half, and after a scoreless third quarter, the stage was set for the final stanza.

The Hornets were able to return a punt 50 yards for the go-ahead score, and after turning the ball over on an interception on a late game drive, Franklin County had to settle for a painful loss at home.

“We made stops, and we caused four turnovers that night,” said Strunk. “We did what we should to win. We’ve got to stop making those little mistakes that hurt us, and stop shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Stanley had a stellar game, completing 11 of 18 passes for 217 yards, the longest for 48 yards, and connecting for three touchdowns.

On the ground, Larry Winchester ran six times for 20 yards. In receiving Martin caught five passes for 104 yards and a score, Moses four catches for 84 yards and a score, and Bockelman three grabs for 20 yards and a score.

Junior Larry and senior Charlee Winchester each had 11 solo tackles, with senior Trey Jones adding six and Martin five. Bockelman had an interception, and Jones and junior Jimmy Adair each recovered a fumble.

Against Bronson, the Seahawks struck first, with Martin capping a 44-yard touchdown drive by running into the end zone, and freshman Gideon Dively nailing the extra point.

But then ti was Bronson’s turn, as they returned the kickoff for a score, and capitalized on a long touchdown pass after recovering the onside kick, to go up 16-7.

The Seahawks made up ground in the second quarter when Martin threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Charlee Winchester, and then in the third quarter, Martin ran the ball in from 19 yards out for the score, followed by a two-point conversion by freshman Amontaye Austin.

At the end of the first half junior outside linebacker and defensive end Blakely Curry was injured and had to be taken to Shands in Gainesville. His mother has written on Facebook that he sustained a broken vertebra in his neck and is recovering. Strunk confirmed he would be out for the entire season.

“He will be missed, he’s a tremendous player,” said the coach.

Following Cottondale’s 80-yard scoring drive, Martin threw a seven-yard scoring strike to sophomore Wyatt Abercrombie, but the Seahawks were unable to make up the 38-27 deficit the rest of the way.

“Defensively, their running back was averaging 187 yards a game in six games, and had almost 1,200 yards running. But as a team Bronson didn’t rush for but 171 yards,” said Strunk. “We continue to improve. We just got to learn to finish and avoid the mental mistakes.”

The Seahawks put up 374 total yards, 306 of them on the ground, led by Martin’s 19 carries for 156 yards and two scores, and Larry Winchester’s 103 yards on 14 rushes. Charlee Winchester had six rushes for 46 yards.

In the air, Martin completed six of 12 passes for 61 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and Stanley was two for five for seven yards.

Defensively, many players shared in the tackling tally, led by a four each for senior Devin Daniels and Austin.