As North Bay Haven’s lengthy queue of players swarmed on the field Friday night, sideline sports photographer Alison Chipman, her new infant son hanging in a child carrier sling, remarked in jest, “Isn’t there a rule against gatherings of 50 or more people?”
Franklin County’s roster of 28 wasn’t supposed to be a match for the North Bay Haven Academy Buccaneers in the pre-season Kickoff Classic.
But try telling that to junior Weston Bockelman, and the entire defensive squad.
With a little more than one minute left in the first quarter, a jarring hit by senior Charlee Winchester knocked the pigskin out of a Bucs’ carrier’s hands, inside the red zone, and Bockelman scooped it up at about the 15-yard line and trotted 85 yards for the touchdown, the second of his career.
An extra point through the uprights by freshman Gideon Dively made it 7-0 and that was all that it took to shut out the Bucs through the remaining three quarters, all under a running clock.
“Our kids played hard. I’m proud of them,” said coach Dirk Strunk. “It was first-time game action for a lot of our starters.
“With just 28 kids, simulating in practice is not always the easiest,” he said. “We were curious how they would react to game speed.
“Our kids were flying around to the football and if you are flying around to the ball, good things are going to happen,” said Strunk. “Coach (Eddie) Money has done a real good job. Our defense played well.”
Bockelman, who finished the game with two catches for 17 yards, a 10-yarder and a 7-yarder, wasn’t through on defense.
He would later thwart a Bucs’ drive with an interception, and tally a solo tackle.
Freshman Amontae Austin, who finished with three rushes for four yards, also made a difference on defense, as he recovered a fumble caused by senior Lamarius Martin.
While the defense sparkled, the same cannot precisely be said of the offense, which had difficulty sustaining drives, and only got even close to the Buccaneers’ end zone twice, from 35 yards and 40 yards out.
“We didn’t play real well offensively, we couldn’t get in the rhythm,” said Strunk. “We were very inconsistent and shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit.
“We’ve got to run it the same way every single time,” he said.
“There were things that were very correctable mistakes, like not jumping off offside or lining up offsides,” said Strunk.
“The nice thing about Friday night was the hustle was there,” he said. “Everything is very easy and very correctable. It’s a lot harder when they (a team) is going through the motions and not playing hard.
“They flew around and had fun and at times we made plays. We can build on that,” Strunk said. “Now we got to work on those little things.”
In total, the Seahawks produced only 94 total yards, 50 in the air and the rest on the ground.
Junior quarterback Evan Stanley went 4-for-10 for 41 passing yards, his longest a 15-yard toss.
Martin was 1 for 2 in the air, for 9 yards, and freshman Cody Abercrombie was unable to complete his two tosses.
Martin rushed six times for 26 yards, his longest for 11 yards, while junior Larry Winchester had eight rushes for 9 yards. Abercrombie ran the ball twice, for five yards.
Junior Gage Boone caught one pass for 15 yards, while Martin and Charlee Winchester each hauled in a nine-yarder.
On defense, senior Trey Jones had six tackles, one for a loss, and one sack, while junior Wil Varnes had four tackles and two assists.
Martin accounted for three tackles, and Larry Winchester three tackles and one assist. Cody Abercrombie posted a pair of tackles and an assist, while brother Charlee had two tackles and two assists.
Junior Cooper Bowden, sophomore Mason Moses and senior Devin Daniels each had two tackles, while junior Bryce Gilbert had two tackles, and one for a loss. Sophomore Wyatt Abercrombie had one tackle.
The Seahawks travel to Wewahitchka Friday night to take on the Gators in the season opener, and Strunk is confident the boys will use this week to solidify.
“It’s about having fun, and playing with the guys you grew up with ,” he said. “For us it was most about seeing where we are. We’re still learning exactly how to execute, and there are things we need to work on.”
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Defense carries Seahawks to pre-season win