By PATRICK CASEY
Austin Garofalo’s 27-yard field goal with 3:49 left in the game allowed the South Walton Seahawks to capture a 10-7 district victory over the Blountstown Tigers in a defensive contest that was a battle for field position for most of Friday night at Seahawk Stadium.
Blountstown opened the contest with a squib kick that was recovered by the Tigers at the South Walton 43-yard line, leading to a six-play drive that saw senior quarterback Bryson Horne hit wide receiver Trevon Mathews with an 11-yard pass for a 7-0 lead early in the contest.
The South Walton defense kept the host squad in the game for most of the first half as they repelled the Tigers on their next drive, stopping Blountstown at the 6-yard line to keep the deficit from growing.
South Walton managed only two first downs on offense in their first three possessions as the squad dealt with poor field position for most all of the first half.
Blountstown put together another potential scoring drive as they drove to the Seahawks 19-yard line before Horne made a critical error, lobbing a pass to the endzone the Sehawks cornerback Jireh Crittenden got a hand on and pulled down for an interception that was followed by a dazzling 102-yard return to the Tigers 1-yard line before he was pulled down. Garofalo then scored on a 2-yard run seconds later to knot the score at 7-all at intermission.
South Walton moved to the Tigers’ 34-yard line on their first drive of the third quarter before Blountstown forced a punt to end the threat. The Tigers then responded with a drive to the Seahawks’ 36-yard line that ended when South Walton sandwiched receiver Jamal Howard on a reception, forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior Christian Johnson to stop the drive.
After an exchange of punts, South Walton put together a 16-play, 62-yard drive that ended with Garofalo hitting a 27-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with 3:49 left in the game.
The Tigers started at their own 20-yard line and got to their 41 before Horne was intercepted by Garofalo, who returned the pigskin 28 yards to the Tigers 36-yard line.
Jireh Crittenden salted the win away with a 31-yard run for a first down as the Seahawks bench erupted as time expired to celebrate the key District 3 win.
Jireh finished with 83 yards on 20 carries while Garofalo rushed for 26 yards while hitting on 6-of-13 passes for 49 yards. Garofalo also had six punts on the night, including a 51-yarder that helped the Seahawks keep Blountstown bottled up for most of the second half of play.
Tristen Burke had 60 yards on nine carries to lead Blountstown’s ground game, which totaled 108 yards. Horne threw for 112 and a touchdown but had two costly interceptions in the district loss.
Garofalo was sacked three times in the contest but South Walton ran the ball 46 times, including 19 attempts in the fourth quarter when they totaled 98 of their 150 rushing yards on the night.
South Walton improved to 4-0 overall and earned a week off before returning to Seahawk Field to face Freeport (3-1) in another district contest as well as the ‘Battle of the Bay’ on September 30.
South Walton has won the last three meetings after the Bulldogs captured the first eight in the series. The Seahawks will also be celebrating Homecoming on the last day of September when the Bulldogs come to town for a 7 p.m. kickoff.