South Walton and Rutherford meet in our High School Football Game of the Week Friday

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 9:13 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) -Area teams are working down the home stretch of their respective seasons, looking to rack up wins and looking to become the best teams they can be come playoff time in mid-November. Two of those teams are South Walton and Rutherford, who go head to head Friday night at Chapman Field.

The Seahawks come east sporting a 2-4 record, coming off a loss at Northview. The Rams meanwhile are 2-2, coming off a loss to Marianna last Thursday night so looking to rebound from that.

I met with both coaches Wednesday via Zoom, and we began by talking about the oddities of this season in the year of COVID, and how that helps them keep in perspective whatever happens on the field. And that just practicing, just playing is the really important thing these days!

“Anytime we step out on the field right now, it’s about the little bit of normalcy that we do feel.” South Walton head coach Phil Tisa told me. “Whether it’s practice, whether it’s the game you know, everything else kind of fades away. And from that point on it’s football.”

“I think it’s a lot to the kids, but it’s a lot to the coaches too.” Rutherford head coach Loren Tillman responded. “Because like coach Tisa said, you know we’ve been doing this since we were their age. And when the football was taken away was like what do we do now. We got some quality time with the family and that was great. But at the same time, football is a big part of who we are as coaches. And to be able to get out there on the football field and to teach and kind of mold these young me, that’s what we enjoy doing.”

The Seahawks will bring with them a high flying offense that can light up the scoreboard. Their passing game is impressive, receiver Cade Roberts second in the state in receiving yards with 723. Despite the offense clicking though South Walton is two games under 500 because the other side of the ball, which is giving up even 43 points per game, including 70 last week at Northview.

“Trying to figure out what that defensive identity is.” coach Tisa said. “You know we come out one week and hold a big, strong Marianna team to 7 points, to turn around and give up the most points we’ve ever given up in the 16 years I’ve been coaching here. So really trying to figure out what our defensive identity is, hopefully start to make people punt a little bit, that would be nice.”

As for the Rams, they head into Friday’s game 2-2, coming off a loss to Marianna, a close game in the first half, but the Dogs pulled away in the second half . A tough loss no doubt, but given the Rams, like all area teams, already have a state playoff berth nailed down, well it lessons the sting of some losses a bit.

“It gives us some leeway to not be so concerned every single Friday night to try and go out and get a win.” coach Tillman told us. “We can play some kids, we can look at some different things, we can sit a kid out if he needs to sit out. So it is nice to not have that pressure every Friday night. And kind of look at some different things and kind of find our identity.”

So they search for identity, but they both can feel good about how their offenses are playing, and each coach had praise Wednesday for the other’s attack.

“You know I don’t think anyone can take everything away from them.” said coach Tillman. “He has a very good staff and he does a very good job. And he aint just started doing this. So he’s going to look and see what we’re giving him and he’s going to try and exploit that. And that’s what good coaches do.”

“You know when I see them I see athletes.” replied coach Tisa. “I see some kids that can move, that are tough. And they’ve got to be eager to learn because I mean it’s just been a complete change from what we saw out of them last year. And I know they were young, but I’m seeing some kids that have grown up.”

The Rams and Seahawks meet at 7 Friday night at Chapman Field, theirs one of several games we’ll feature on Friday Night Overtime.

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