School Spotlight: South Walton High School (Santa Rosa Beach, Florida)

South Walton is a 2A High School located in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. They are undergoing the construction of a new stadium, which means the team will be having to play their few home games this upcoming season at the middle school. That alongside some inexperience in a few key positions could lead to some growing pains for this year, but the experience they gain this year gives them the chance to become something truly special down the line. Whatever happens this year, the future is bright for the South Walton Seahawks.

The team is led by head coach Phil Tisa, who is entering his 13th season as the head coach for the Seahawks. He also has experience both as the assistant coach and as the head softball coach at the school in the past. He began coaching various sports at a young age, as a Sophomore in college, and has been doing so ever since. He’s the winningest coach in school history, and we decided to ask him a few questions.

Click here to register for camp

How is coaching football different from the other sports you’ve coached in the past?

Just the fact that, to me, Football is the ultimate team sport. It typically can’t be won or lost with just one person. It takes everybody rowing the boat in the same direction in order to be successful.

What got you into coaching in the first place, especially at such a young age?

It’s actually kind of crazy, I went to school to be a lawyer. I went to school as a baseball player and got injured my freshman year, needing Tommy John Surgery. I turned that down and took up a managerial job for the team, coaching shortly there after. One day, one of my old football coaches was talking to me and he told me “You know, this is what you were meant to do.” Once I finished my degree, I started coaching professionally.

What do you feel are your team’s strengths going into this year?

A few things come to mind. We have an up-tempo offense, we throw the ball more than most teams do, and our defense has a lot of playing experience. We started some young guys on defense the last couple of years, and we have started to see that grow as they have gotten older and gained a better understanding of defense.

What do you value the most with a football team?

Honestly? Relationships. Both the relationships us coaches have with ourselves and also the relationships we have with the players. You ask these kids and these coaches to trust you, and that’s where that relationship comes in. You ask them to come here 3-4 days a week in the hot summer, then to come every week August through November and beat the hell out of their bodies. In order to get that buy in, you have to get these kids to believe in you and believe you are here for them.

It sounds like you are very convincing in the appeal you have to make to the kids, and it makes sense why someone told you that you were meant to do this all those years ago.

What’s exciting to me is, when these kids come back however many years down the road, the first time they see you, the first thing they say to you is “Hey Coach”. The fact that, ten years down the road, I’m still “Coach” to them. That’s important.

We also asked him to spotlight a few players to watch out for this upcoming season.

Winston Harstvedt – OLB, TE

He checks all the boxes colleges are looking for. 6’6”, 230 pounds. He’s going to play two-way for us, and we’re really looking for him to make an impact.

Cannon Page – WR

He has had a phenomenal offseason and developed into a leader. The growth this offseason is something to be proud of.

JD Brown – QB

He’s a Sophomore. He’s going to be the real deal. Smart kid, can make all the throws, one of the prettiest throws I’ve seen from a kid on the run. At that age, he understands defenses and how to read them. I’m excited to see him take the helm and see what he’s going to do within this offense.