SEAHAWKS - It's all about the team at South Walton High

TINA HARBUCK
Senior quarterback Johnathan Ortner runs through drills with the team Tuesday afternoon. Last year, Ortner led the team to a 7-4 finish with a trip to the playoffs.

For anybody who has spent time around the ball field, they've heard a coach at one time or another say "There's no I in team."

The coach is absolutely correct.

However, the letters that do spell "team" can and do have a lot of meaning when it comes to football at South Walton High School.

"We've got to be a team," Coach Phil Tisa told the squad as they took a knee at the end of practice Tuesday afternoon.

"Protect what we have. Above all … protect the Team."

"E" could represent the effort the boys put in on the practice field.

"I see good effort," Tisa said on the second day of practice. "It's hard to say we're doing a lot of things good, but we're learning.

"It's hard in helmets, defensively, but I see us giving a lot of effort and I see us working hard."

Monday will be the first day of pads for the Seahawks and all area high schools.

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The letter "A" could easily stand for athleticism when it comes to describing South Walton.

"I think we are more athletic and we're stronger than we have been which is going to be crucial," Tisa said.

"M" is for momentum, that up-tempo game, which the Seahawks demonstrate on the practice field and on game night.

The Seahawks hope to run 80 plays per game.

"That's still our goal," Tisa said. "That's the advantage we have over teams that are bigger than us. We hope to wear them down. The speed in which we play is a big factor."

"M" could also represent the many players on the team.

The Seahawks have 65 on the roster, including varsity and junior varsity.

"That's an all time high for South Walton," Tisa said. On Tuesday they had 50 at practice. "We knew it was going to be tough starting practice two weeks before school started. But we're glad to have 50. That's what we had full time last year."

Tisa said the big numbers are due to a couple of factors.

"I think it's the success we had last year and I think we try to do things the right way. And I think our middle school program is flourishing. They sent a really talented group of freshman and we're really excited about that."

The Seahawks lost 14 off last years roster to graduation and other things, which leaves them with about 35 returning to the program, along with about 30 new ones.

Returning starters in key roles are seniors quarterback Johnathan Ortner and receiver Alex Smith. Smith will also play backup to Ortner. Harrison Schaffer and Donnie Grosskopf are back at linebacker. Carter Edwards made the shift from safety to corner. Back on the offensive line are Cooper Isacks, Caleb Kinneman and Cole Wickman.

On the defensive line, Jeremy Seilhan is back along with a few that have made the move up from junior varsity, Beau Sheidy and Mark Mayers.

New to the Seahawk lineup are sophomores Jirah Crittenden and Jeremiah Crittenden who moved in from Freeport as well as junior Kyle Lenoir. Joe Ledo-Massey, a junior, is back in the lineup after sitting out a year and Brody Myers, a senior, "finally decided to play," Tisa said.

One aspect Tisa and the team is focusing on is to get "better on defense."

"We definitely have a more athletic, more physical group on defense. I'm hoping we want have to try and outscore people. I'm hoping defense will be a factor.

"Overall this is just a great group of kids. They work extremely hard in the weight room and on the field. They are just a joy to be around. I'm real excited about what we've got this year."

The Seahawks will kick off their season at 7 p.m. at home Aug. 22 against Walton County High in a Kickoff Classic.