By BLAKE MCCORMICK
Questions abound for each of our Walton County football teams as they head into the 2017 season, and very few will be answered when Walton, South Walton, and Freeport take the field for Kickoff Classics this Friday night.
Can Walton scrape together enough effectiveness on the offensive line to lift the Braves and their improved set of receivers and backs above last year’s 3-8 season?
Are the glory days over for Phil Tisa’s South Walton crew as they move up to Class 4A and face a dearth of experience after posting four consecutive winning seasons?
At Freeport, will enough skill players emerge to help the Shaun Arntz era start off with a spark and not a dud?
It’s been since the mid-2000s that each of our county squads have simultaneously entered a season in such an enigmatic state. There’s been just enough recent success between the three schools to evoke optimism, but enough obvious vulnerability to fear the worst. A glorified practice scrimmage, one which will not count on the team’s official win-loss record, is not the proper canvas to have those feelings of hopefulness or concern heightened or eliminated, especially since the contest this Friday will involve mostly basic schemes and a liberal use of junior varsity and second string participants.
Will the suspect passing abilities of Walton’s Kentrell Parker be effective enough to supplement his nifty running prowess?
Is Freeport’s huge offensive line, led by Southern Mississippi commit Shannon Carswell, hype or substance?
Is the excitement of South Walton’s coaching staff about sophomore receivers JM Allen and Jaden Page warranted?
A clear response to these salient mysteries will not be accessible this Friday, but, what will be available is football. Sweet, splendid football and all the wonderful accessories that go with it. The smell of burgers and other concession stand pleasantries will fill the air, marching bands will be observed stepping into the stadium to the beat of a drumline cadence, and cheerleaders will be heard yelling themselves hoarse. So, this Friday, head over to Bonifay and watch Walton face the Bluedevils, or stay home in beautiful Walton County and watch intra-county rivals Freeport and South Walton compete against each other at Seahawk stadium.
Football season is back! The answers can wait.
Freeport at South Walton: Freeport Head Football Coach Shaun Arntz said scheduling conflicts and wanting to defuse tensions in a rivalry that he feels has become too heated were his reasons for not scheduling arch-rival South Walton for the 2017 regular season. Members of South Walton’s camp believe the first year head football coach was trying to help his alma mater dodge a potential fifth consecutive loss to the Seahawks. Either way, the two shall meet this Friday and it will be interesting to see just how contained each squad will be in this “meaningless” game between two rivals who loathe each other. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Walton at Holmes County: After three consecutive losing seasons from 2013-2015, Holmes County reemerged last season with a 6-4 record and would have likely made the playoffs had the current selection process been implemented last season. The Bluedevils are looking to build on last year’s winning record and have a smattering of last year’s personnel to do so. This should be an interesting game when the teams meet in the regular season on October 13. Kickoff for the contest this Friday is 7 p.m. at Bonifay’s Memorial Field. For those who cannot make the game, TV-24 will replay the contest at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.