VERNON — It was a battle to the end.
Down 21-0 midway through the third quarter, the South Walton Seahawks battled back in the final 20 minutes but couldn’t overcome the Vernon Yellow Jackets, falling 21-19 in a preseason kickoff classic Friday night.
“We didn’t quit,” South Walton first-year head coach Phil Tisa said. “Even though they put up three touchdowns, they didn’t quit.
“I saw some kids that wanted to play. And I’m glad to see we kept our intensity up.”
In the first quarter, both teams fielded their junior varsity players. In the second, they started feeding in a few varsity and second-stringers.
Vernon scored in the second quarter on a 9-yard strike from quarterback Dylan Kirk to Austin Brown. Aaron Bowers’ first of three extra points gave the Jackets a 7-0 lead. Two minutes later, Kirk connected with Julian Silas for a 40-yard score and it was 14-0 Vernon at the half.
The second half were competed by all varsity players. Four minutes into the third quarter, Vernon scored on a 46-yard pass from Kirk to Alex Andrews for a 21-0 cushion. That’s when the Seahawks responded.
South Walton finally got on the board with 2:40 left in the quarter on a 10-yard run by Brandon Whalen. Vernon responded with a 14-play possession before the Seahawks Drew Pfeiffer intercepted a pass at the 10. Ten plays later, South Walton was in the end zone on a 2-yard run by Whalen.
The Seahawks scored one last time on a 75-yard strike from sophomore quarterback Jonathon Ortner to Bishop Waldrop. Joe Ledo-Massy kicked the point and it was 21-19 with 2 minutes to play.
South Walton got the ball back one final time, but couldn’t produce a miracle finish.
“I thought early on we threw and caught the ball well,” Vernon coach Ryan Boyd said. “We had good protection. But in the fourth quarter we turned the ball over late,” which hurt us, he said.
“We’ve got some work to do up front.”
Vernon travels to Chipley next week while South Walton will host Baker.