By PATRICK CASEY
Senior Elliott Gambla kicked a 27-yard field goal on the first play of overtime to give the South Walton Seahawks a surprising 23-20 home victory over the Walton Braves this past Friday night at Seahawk Stadium.
South Walton took advantage of a tipped pass interception by Cade Rowland on the second play of overtime on the Braves’ possession to snatch away the win after putting together a clutch drive that tied the contest with 39 seconds left in the game.
Offensively, the contest was ugly as the two squads combined for 19 punts, 12 quarterback sacks, and six turnovers with 23 plays from scrimmage that lost yardage. South Walton had no running game, missing two of their running backs due to injury, and Walton completed only three passes in 18 attempts as the Braves receivers dropped balls in a variety of ways to kill drives.
Walton’s offense came down to three big plays. Junior quarterback Kentrell Parker got onto the field for the first time in 2017 and put Walton ahead 7-0 on a 53-yard run with 4:36 to go in the first quarter. On the next drive he hit receiver Jb Baker with a 55-yard touchdown pass as the senior got behind the Seahawks’ defense for an easy score and a 14-0 lead. Parker later got loose on a 41-yard touchdown run to put Walton ahead 20-13 in the fourth quarter.
The Braves committed five turnovers and four of them resulted in points for the Seahawks.
Parker fumbled inside the Braves’ 10-yard line with 8:12 to go in the first half and the Seahawks recovered, setting up a 10-yard run by Markos Keepman to get the Seahawks back into the game at 14-7. With less than three minutes left in the first half, Walton’s other quarterback, Keane Neal, was hit while attempting to throw over the middle and Cade Rowland snagged the errant pass at the Braves 39-yard line and worked his way into the endzone to trim the lead to 14-13 with 2:33 to go before intermission. Gambla was unable to tie the game, however, as a high snap ruined the extra point try to allow Walton to hold a 14-13 lead after the first 24 minutes of play.
The third quarter was an onslaught of punts with the most significant play an injury to Walton starting running back Javon Graham as he appeared to suffer an arm injury on the first play of the second half that kept him from returning to the game.
Parker’s run with 10:26 to go in the game increased the Braves lead to 20-13 but Walton kicker Eliborio Hernandez missed an extra point after a penalty backed the try up to a 25-yard attempt.
Walton was moving to put the game away midway through the fourth quarter when a Seahawk defender put a helmet on the football as Kentrell Parker was going down at the 26-yard line to force a fumble that Rowland got on top of to stop the threat.
The Seahawks offense did nothing on the two ensuing possessions, nor did Walton with Parker tossing his first interception of the night on a third down play that essentially served as a long punt, something that neither team was able to do well enough to shift field position most of the night.
The Seahawks finally put a drive together with the help of a roughing the passer penalty on the first play of their final possession in regulation as the host squad saw quarterback Drake Roberts buy time with his scrambling ability while completing passes to Jaden Page and JM Allen to move down the field.
Roberts hit Allen with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 39 seconds left in the game to trim the lead to 20-19 and Gambla hit a pressure-filled extra point to knot the score and play on the home crowd’s enthusiasm. Parker returned the ensuing kickoff to the 45-yard line but the Braves could not mount a scoring threat before regulation came to a close.
South Walton won the toss and went on defense first in the extra frame, hitting Parker for a 4-yard loss on first down before a pass intended for Austin Harris was tipped up in the air and intercepted by Rowland, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery to star for a South Walton defense that made several game-saving plays.
South Walton Head Football Coach Phil Tisa sent Gambla out to try and win the game with a 27-yard field goal attempt and he came through with a perfect kick to set off a celebration that has now seen South Walton win the last two meetings after dropping the first nine in the series.
South Walton(1-1) will host Northview(1-1) on Friday night at Seahawk Stadium with kickoff set for 7 p.m. while Walton(0-2) will try to rebound from the inexplicable loss with a game at home against Panama City Arnold(1-1), a team that thrashed South Walton 44-10 in Week 1.