Ten local sports items to remember from the 2008-09 school year- Part 2
By PATRICK CASEY
The end of another school year brings to a close yet another chapter in local athletic history. For some, the look ahead to next year brings hope for improvement, for others, the realization that a repeat of success may be a near impossible task.
After looking back on the school year that was, 10 items stand out from what was a solid athletic year for all five of our area high schools that the DeFuniak Herald tries to cover on a daily basis.
This week, we wrap up our look back with five events or athletes you might have missed hearing about during the last school year.
5. Walton girls basketball team wins district! The Walton girls basketball team put the eight seniors on their roster to good use in 2008-09 as they won their first district title since 1996, broke a 25-game losing streak to arch-rival Pensacola Catholic and claimed their first playoff win since the 1996 state semi-final against Wildwood. Coach Terry McClure coached Walton to a 19-8 record in his third season with the club and a playoff win over Chipley 82-64 before the squad fell at Marianna 53-46. The Braves got three-point shooting from Lee Paulk, ball handling from Tori Lincoln, senior leadership from Betsy Stevenson and athletic versatility from Jasmine Moore. Add in seniors Jasmine Dorsey, Alex Infinger, Sami Barnes, Shannon Currie, Caiti Stewart and Casey Perkins and the Braves were a formidable squad last season. Sophomores Delaney Bell and Lynn Paulk added depth that may be sparse for the Braves next season.
4. Betsy Stevenson – Walton senior Betsy Stevenson had a year to remember at Walton High School. Stevenson led the volleyball team to a second round playoff game at Pensacola Catholic, helped the school win their first district title in basketball in over a decade and picked up several academic honors including being named to the 2009 FHSAA Academic All-State Team. Betsy earned a varsity letter in basketball all four years of high school, and earned three letters in volleyball. She is undecided on her choice of major, but signed with Montevallo University in Birmingham on April 9 to play volleyball at the school. Stevenson leaves Walton as one of the most decorated female athletes in school history. She started 106 basketball games in her career, leading Walton in scoring her sophomore and junior years on the squad – scoring 1,071 points in her career – believed to be the second highest amount of points scored to all-time leader Lakeisha Parrish (2,087). Stevenson was equally effective as a hitter and setter for the Braves volleyball team, piling up 300 kills, 295 assists, 99 aces, 95 digs and 35 blocks in her career.
3. Issac Jackson – Like Stevenson, Issac Jackson built a stellar athletic career at Walton High School. Jackson ran for over 1,300 yards in 2007 and 2008 for the football team while posting one of the top individual rushing performances in school history with 256 yards against Baker to lead Walton to a 28-22 Homecoming victory in 2008. Jackson totaled 3,099 rushing yards in his career at the school, rushed for 36 touchdowns and scored a combined 244 points for the Braves. Jackson posted 14 career 100-yard games and his 7.71 yards per carry may be a school record. He carried the ball 31 times against Baker, the only Walton back to touch the ball that many times in a game since at least 1991. Jackson also played basketball and baseball at Walton, but he will always be remembered for his exploits on the football field at Walton High.
2. South Walton football – The year 2008 marked the first time in the short school history of South Walton High School that the Seahawks became a force with which to be reckoned. The Seahawks posted a 9-3 mark, won their first district title and state playoff game. Fourth year head coach David Barron saw the Seahawks pull off several wins that helped his squad earn the “Cardiac Seahawks” moniker – a name that came from winning squeakers against Wewahitchka, Panama City Bozeman, Vernon, Holmes County and Sneads during the season. Using a pounding running game that saw junior Bryant Adams run for 1,089 yards and a passing game that produced 18 touchdown passes via quarterbacks Dennis Smith and Cody Adams, it still took a 6-0 win over Baker in a district tie-breaker to earn a first-round state playoff game. The Seahawks won for the first time in the playoffs by scoring three touchdowns in the second half to defeat Bozeman 34-27 before falling to juggernaut Florida High in the second round. The fall provided a dream season for a school that hadn’t had much success in the sport prior to 2008, but left a team that will be hungry to repeat the success this fall.
1. South Walton tennis – Tennis is a high school sport throughout much of the state of Florida that is dominated by private schools. In 2008, South Walton kicked in the door to the state tournament with a group of girls that nearly captured the Class A tennis title, falling just short to Delray Beach American Heritage. While the team finished second, senior tennis player Alexa Guarachi won the Class A girls tennis state championship with a victory over Caroline Dailey in the finals of the Class A state tournament at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry. South Walton tennis coach Scott Michie watched the Alabama commitment rally from a 1-2 deficit in the opening set to win 11 straight games to capture the title while teammates Alexandra Alford, Jacqueline March, Brooke Durden and Katelyn Marcum cheered their teammate on. In a sport that Walton County has had little success in of late, South Walton made it one of the feel-good stories of the school year.