There’s No Telling how the direction of both programs may have changed had South Walton’s Kyle Stamps had a chance to boot the extra point against Freeport after Jordan Bell’s interception return for a touchdown in 2004. Here, Stamps runs the ball against the Bulldogs on October 29, 2004, in Santa Rosa Beach.
By BLAKE MCCORMICK
My goodness, we are less than three weeks now from football kicking off in Walton County, and I can’t wait! Over the last few weeks, I’ve passed the time by giving what I believe to be the top football wins in Freeport and South Walton history. Last week, I documented my choices for the top Freeport heart-breaking losses. This week, it’s South Walton’s turn. Due to time restraints this week, I’ll go with three games instead of five.
Liberty County 24, South Walton 17: In the opening round of the regional playoffs on Nov. 21, 2009, South Walton carried a 17-7 lead into the fourth quarter before everything fell apart for the visitors from Walton County. On the first play of the final period, Liberty County connected with their only pass completion of the game, a 50-yard touchdown strike, to pull the Bulldogs to within a 17-14 margin. On the ensuing kickoff, the Seahawk return unit bobbled the ball near the goal line and had to start the possession inside the shadow of their endzone. One play later, Liberty forced a fumble that was returned for a 7-yard touchdown, earning a 21-17 lead they would never relinquish. The Seahawks finished the season 8-3, but the loss would be the start of a slide for the program, which would go 9-23 over the next three years.
Walton 34, South Walton 27: When South Walton found themselves trailing 27-10, in the third quarter of this intra-county match-up, it looked like another routine loss against Walton was in the making for the Seahawks. However, thanks in large part to a dazzling receiving effort by Austin Garofalo, (8 receptions, 236 yards) The Green and White sparked a high octane rally that tied the game at 27-all with 8:50 remaining in the contest. The Braves answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive only to see Seahawks coach Phil Tisa’s crew get the ball back and quickly march to their opponents 11-yard line. It looked like the Santa Rosa Beach school might get their first ever gridiron victory over their intra-county foe, but a fourth down pass from Dillon Bates to Jeremiah Crittenden fell incomplete, (and included a possible no-call pass interference) allowing the visitors from DeFuniak Springs to escape with the win. South Walton would finish the season with a respectable 6-4 record while Walton would forge an undefeated regular season. One year later, South Walton would finally earn their first win in the series, a 51-27 road victory.
Freeport 22, South Walton 16: It should have only taken two years to beat their arch rivals but due to a hideous play call on Oct. 29, 2004, South Walton lost to Freeport 22-16 in only the second year of the Seahawks program. With under three minutes left in regulation, Jordan Bell returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown, sending the packed home stands into a frenzy. All that was left to do was kick the extra point and Freeport would have had the improbable task of trying to score twice with under two minutes remaining to win the game. Instead, the Seahawk offensive play-calling staff elected to bypass the leg of Kyle Stamps, who had kicked a 37-yard field goal earlier in the game, and inexplicably go for an unnecessary two-point conversion. The attempt failed and the Freeport offense answered with a fast, frantic scoring drive that included two hook-n-lateral trick plays and a 5-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left in the contest. The Bulldogs’ own two-point conversion was successful and tied the game at 16-all. The Seahawks couldn’t score on their possession during overtime but Freeport scored on a quarterback sneak, handing South Walton their most incomprehensible defeat. It would take seven more contests in the Battle of the Bay for the Seahawks to finally procure their first win in the series, a 35-21 decision in Freeport on Oct. 25, 2013.