By REID TUCKER
The Freeport Bulldogs steamrolled South Walton, pounding out a 41-7 victory over the Seahawks, with special teams accounting for fully half of the six touchdowns scored.
The non-district 1A contest started off in Freeport’s favor and stayed that way, with quarterback Gabe Moore quickly nailing a 25-yard end zone pass to Morgan Hardee by the time a little more than three minutes had elapsed, though a bad snap on the point-after attempt left the score 6-0. The Seahawks gained a pair of first downs on several runs from their leading rusher Brandon Whalen, who ran for 140 yards on 23 carries, but South Walton was stopped on the 40 and forced to punt. That’s when Freeport really took over, as Owen Cole ran the ball 71 yards back for TD number two, giving the Bulldogs a 12-0 lead with 5:21 left in the quarter.
That kind of work from special teams is what made the difference on the night of Sept. 6, said Freeport head coach Jim Anderson. However, South Walton’s ensuing 13-yard touchdown run illustrated a chink in Freeport’s armor as he saw it.
“We’re glad to get the win, don’t get me wrong,” Anderson said. “I’m really proud of the boys and what they did. It’s always good to get a win against South Walton. We played very well on defense and we did a fine job on special teams but our conditioning just wasn’t what it needed to be. We’ve got to run them even more.”
Running was what South Walton did, varying handoffs between Whalen and Drew Pfeiffer to use up the rest of the first quarter, making it to the 4-yard line before the buzzer. Three penalties on Freeport helped the Seahawks score their only touchdown of the evening just five seconds into Q2, with Johnathan Ortner hitting team mate Sage Roberts on a three-yard pass. The scoreboard then showed a close 12-7 after a good extra point kick from Joe Ledo-Massey.
However, the exultations along the Seahawks’ sideline were short-lived as Freeport’s special teams struck once more, with David Godwin shucking off defenders on a 97-yard rush to the end zone for another Bulldogs touchdown. Freeport failed once more to make good on the two-point conversion attempt, but led 18-7 with 11:40 still to go in a long second quarter.
South Walton made steady progress on its next possession, dealing handily with the Freeport o-line, moving the ball from its own 30 to the Bulldogs’ on just four plays. However, Freeport’s William Morrison stripped the ball from Ortner to take over possession on the 36-yard line at the 8:44 to-go mark.
Cole made a short gain to the 39, but set up Moore for a brilliantly faked handoff play that saw him slice across the field, cutting behind the South Walton defense for a 61-yard run. Moore fumbled the ball on the 2 yard-line but his team-mate Alan Bartlett made the recovery in the end zone for another score. Moore kicked the extra point to give Freeport the lead at 25-7 with 8:44 left in the half. The reeling Seahawks were stopped and forced to punt from their own 39-yard line, but their woes continued to pile up as Freeport’s muscled through the offensive line to block the punt, enabling Austin Clark to grab ahold of the ball and run it in for a 35-yard touchdown. The point-after kick failed, but Freeport still had a commanding 31-7 lead. There were another seven minutes and change to play before halftime.
In that remaining time South Walton had the ball twice more, but had trouble putting anything together, as the first possession was interrupted by a pass interception from Freeport’s Joseph Scarpaci. Freeport was forced to the turn the ball over on downs after failing by inches to convert from fourth-and-3 on the 38-yard line. South Walton’s last possession of the half lasted 12 plays and saw the Seahawks reach the 29-yard line, but Ortner’s five incompletion forced a turnover on downs with 1:44 on the clock, though the Dogs made it no further than their own 30 before the end of the half.
South Walton turned the ball over on downs again on its first possession of the third quarter, stopped on the 45-yard line by Freeport’s defense, but it ran down the clock to 9:37. The Bulldogs struck again shortly thereafter on a 55-yard, eight-play drive culminating in a short 1-yard leap from Chase Caswell, which, combined with a point-after kick from Moore, gave Freeport a 38-7 lead with 5:35 left….
Read the full story in the Sept. 13, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.