By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton Braves rallied from a 21-14 halftime deficit to score 28 unanswered points in the second half of play as they captured a 42-21 victory in Freeport on Friday night.
Walton tied the game at 21-all on their first drive of the second half as Daiquan Brown completed a 50-yard drive with a 2-yard scamper that gave Andrew Shipman a chance to knot the score with his extra point.
Walton fumbled in their own territory later in the quarter but Freeport was unable to cash in as the Braves defense recorded one of their six quarterback sacks on the night to stop the Bulldogs on downs at the Braves’ 31-yard line.
Walton’s offense went to work and came up with a big pass play as Chris Kelly connected with Amos Williams on a 55-yard scoring pass down the Braves sideline for the go-ahead score and a 28-21 lead.
The Bulldogs still had plenty of time to mount a comeback of their own but miscues on hand-offs between quarterback Gabe Moore and running back Owen Cole on Freeport’s next two possessions wound up on the turf and the Braves defense pounced on the loose pigskin both times.
The two fumbles led to two short scoring drives for Walton. The Braves used a halfback pass from Williams to Raymond Easley to get down to the 1-yard line with Markell Carswell scoring two plays later from three yards out. Williams scored his third touchdown of the night less than two minutes later as he rambled in from 10 yards away for the final margin of 42-21.
The first half was a different story as Freeport took the lead on their first possession of the night as they used a short kickoff to beat the Braves to the football on the opening kick with Zach Fordem pouncing on the bouncing football to start at the Braves’ 43-yard line. Three plays later Gabe Moore hit Morgan Hardee with a 10-yard scoring pass for a 6-0 lead as the Bulldogs failed on a two-point conversion pass.
Walton started on their own 40-yard line after recovering a short kickoff and used nine plays to take the lead as Diontre Pate capped the drive with a 3-yard run with Shipman hitting the extra point for a 7-6 advantage.
Early in the second quarter, Freeport went 80 yards to retake the lead as Moore directed a seven-play scoring drive that ended with a spectacular toss to Hardee as he raced down the visiting sideline for a 55-yard touchdown. Nick Russell caught a pass from Moore for the two-point conversion and a 14-7 lead for the home team.
Walton tied the game with just 1:42 left in the first half as the Braves took advantage of a short punt to march 47 yards for the tying score with Williams running in from four yards out.
Freeport was not finished as Moore directed the team down the field after Walton chose to kick the ball short with the Bulldogs recovering the ball on their own 45-yard line. Freeport needed only six plays to score as Owen Cole scampered in from nine yards out to give the home team a 21-14 lead. The Bulldogs had no timeouts when they started the drive but did get a pair of penalties on the defense to help move down the field.
Freeport recovered their second short kickoff of the first half to rob the Braves of another possession but was unable to move the ball in three plays before halftime.
In the end, the three fumbles by Freeport proved costly as Walton ground out 351 yards with five different running backs going for more than 30 yards each, headlined by Williams 135.
Cole led the Bulldogs’ offensive effort with 77 of Freeport’s 139 rushing yards while Hardee hauled in four receptions for 76 yards with two touchdowns. Moore threw for 143 yards but completed only 7-of-21 passes on the night and had only two completions in the second half of play.
Walton (3-1) will travel to Dothan to take on Northview High (2-2) on Friday night while Freeport (1-3) will host their 2012 Homecoming game against the Graceville Tigers (2-1). Both games are set to kickoff at 7 p.m.