The energy that carried over from the afternoon homecoming parade through Eastpoint was palpable, and the crowd was robust for the game, as they came to watch the Franklin County Seahawks take on the 3-1 Aucilla Christian Warriors.
Following the first ever appearance of the high school’s newly created Navy Junior ROTC color guard in the pre-game show, the visiting Class 2A foes struck first, running up three touchdowns, and an 18-0 lead until the waning minutes of the first half.
With 2:15 left before the break, junior quarterback Evan Stanley tossed a 15-yard scoring strike to senior Larry Winchester, and the Seahawks were right back it. Sophomore Gideon Dively’s kick was no good, and the Seahawks trailed 18-6.
But on the Warriors’ subsequent drive. Seahawks sophomore cornerback Brayden McCall intercepted the ball, and Franklin County had a chance to advance from their own 16-yard line.
They were unable to sustain a drive, and Coach Dirk Strunk’s team went into the locker room still within striking range.
The Seahawks refused to give up, and a superb defensive effort was led by sophomore linebacker Cody Abercrombie, who had 11 tackles, five for a loss. Winchester contributed seven, one for a loss, and junior Wyatt Abercrombie added five, one for a loss.
About midway through the third quarter, senior defensive back Austin Staats grabbed an interception but the Seahawks were unable to capitalize.
The game ended with a 25-6 loss.
The inability to make the most of their opponent’s miscues was part of the story, since both Abercrombies, junior Mason Moses and Parker Mock, and sophomore Reece Juno each recovered fumbles, but the team could not convert them into scores.
On offense, Stanley carried the pigskin 12 times for 52 yards, and passed for 14 more, as he completed 4 of 7 passes. Sophomore quarterback Alex Sterling was 1 for 2, nailing a 5-yard completion.
Senior Wil Varnes carried the ball eight times for 60 yards, and caught two passes for seven yards. Cody Abercrombie rushed five times for 20 yards.
“The kids played hard Friday night,” said Strunk. “They’re continuing to get better; we’re close to turning the corner.”
The turn could come Friday night on the road, when the team travels to Cottondale to take on the Hornets, who are also 0-4.
The most joyous part of the evening took place at halftime, with the announcement of the homecoming court, which included freshmen Ryan Brown and Garyson Millender; sophomores Andrea Cruz and Gideon Dively, and Lexci McNair and Ethan Kembro; juniors Miranda Diaz and Ethan Shirley, Autumn Loesch and Parker Mock; and Kylee Smith and Chase Crum; and seniors Meredith Alford and Bryce Gilbert, Sage Brannan and Larry Winchester, Genesis Jones and Cameron Nash, Maddison Whitten and Carter Kembro; and the couple who were selected as the Queen and King, Saunti Turrell and Jamal Robinson.
In a hearkening back to a decade ago, the ceremony featured an appearance by the 2011 Homecoming Queen Emerald Larkin. In the parade earlier that afternoon, her counterpart from that year, Javeion Winfield, had ridden in a golf cart.
At a pep rally earlier in the week, the entire team had presented longtime volunteer coach Ashley Teat with a signed helmet.
Between 1988 and 1993, Teat had played guard for the Apalachicola Sharks, then coached by Shaw Maddox. In his final year, he had completed the season with a knee brace after sustaining an injury.
Now the team’s chaplain, Teat talks openly of his spiritual journey, aided by Don Carroll of the Carrabelle Christian Center and inspired by Green Bay Packer defensive end Reggie White, an ordained minister, and a member of both the college and professional football Hall of Fame.
“Hey, who’s got your back?” Teat shouts to the young Seahawks from the sidelines, where he watches the games from a wheelchair due to leg problems. “That’s how I say it, “I got your back.’”
Another feature on the sidelines this season are the debut of a pair of watergirls, the first time girls have assumed the role of preparing items for the players before the game, and running water out to them during the grueling competition.
Seventh graders Riley Cowart and Kayla McDaniel, the daughter of volunteer assistant Kendall McDaniel, alternate in handling the water girl duties.