By PATRICK CASEY
The South Walton Seahawks earned their first district win of the season and first-ever victory over the Chipley Tigers in varsity football with a 45-38 offensive slugfest on Friday night at Seahawk Stadium.
The game was a nightmare for the defensive side of the football as the two squads combined to put up more than 900 yards of total offense with South Walton quarterback Johnathan Ortner throwing for 324 yards and five touchdowns to lead the host squad to the victory and a 3-2 record.
Chipley ran for 460 yards on the night but fumbled the ball away three times and had no threat of a passing game as the Seahawks adjusted to their running attack and held the visiting team to six rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks scored early in the second quarter after a scoreless first period as Harrison Schaffer bowled in from a yard out for a 7-0 lead. That score ignited an offensive brush fire of points as Chipley exploded for three long touchdown runs while Zach Reese scored on a pair of his own jaunts to see the Tigers take a 24-20 lead at the half.
South Walton took the lead after Chipley fumbled the ball at midfield on their first possession of the second half. The Seahawks marched 50 yards for the go-ahead score with Alex Smith catching a 19-yard strike for a 26-20 lead.
Chipley erased the deficit with two quick touchdown drives of their own for a 38-26 lead after three quarters of play only to see the Walton County squad score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the game.
Ortner connected with Chandler Parrett on a 9-yard pass play just 20 seconds into the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 38-32, then hit Sage Roberts with a 26-yard dart after Chipley fumbled the ball away at their own 21-yard line. Austin Garofalo’s extra point gave the Seahawks a 39-38 lead with 11:19 left in the contest.
The Tigers had two possessions over the final 11 minutes of the game but penalties and a Seahawks defense that hit ball-carriers for losses on four of their nine running plays in the quarter snuffed out their comeback attempt. South Walton tacked on a 2-yard pass to Alex Smith with 5:51 to go in the contest for the final margin of 45-38.
Sage Roberts had seven catches for 126 yards while Alex Smith, who returned to duty after a concussion in the Walton game, caught seven passes for 84 yards. Reese led the home team with 81 rushing yards as the running game was effective enough to keep Chipley’s defense guessing all night.
The Tigers got 202 yards on the ground from junior Zach Stewart with senior Kobe McCrary going for 179 yards. Zach Campbell added 70 yards and a pair of scores to match Stewart with McCrary getting into the endzone once. The Tigers converted four of their two-point conversion attempts but fumbled the snap on their final attempt with a 38-26 lead.
The two teams combined for 23 penalties on the night but the Seahawks committed no turnovers during the 48-minute battle.
The win gives South Walton a 1-1 mark in district play and leaves them with key district contests at Bonifay and at home against Bozeman later this season for a possible playoff berth.
South Walton (3-2) will hold Homecoming festivities this week as the squad will host Cottondale on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Seahawk Stadium.