WALKER – Walker simply found the right formula to hand Scotlandville its first loss of the season.
Brian Thomas, a wide receiver, had a game-clinching interception with under a minute to play and had two first-half touchdown catches, and Keondre Brown scored three second-half touchdowns, leading the Wildcats to a 35-27 win over the No. 10 Hornets in the District 4-5A opener for both teams Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
“Those guys (Scotlandville) came in real hot, playing very well, so we knew it was going to be a tough challenge, and I thought our guys did a nice job of trying to keep composure for the most part and battling, and our defense, I thought, was very opportunistic, created a ton of turnovers,” Walker coach Chad Mahaffey said after the Wildcat defense forced five turnovers. “Offensively, I look at it, and we should probably capitalize a little more, but we were able to do enough, keep them off the field and just at the end of the game, I wish we could have closed it out a little better.”
Scotlandville (5-1, 0-1) got the ball back at its own 30 following a Walker punt with 58 seconds to play and moved to midfield thanks to a 15-yard pass from C’zavian Teasett to Reggie King and an encroachment call against the Wildcats. But Thomas intercepted Teasett – one of three by Hornet quarterbacks – to seal the win for Walker.
“It’s the little things,” Scotlandville coach Lester Ricard said. “We have to clean it up (and) just get better. Everything’s right in front of us still, but we shouldn’t lose these games. I’m not lying. We shouldn’t lose them, but we were flat. Last week, we played Southern Lab … we came and we stepped forward. Today, we stepped sideways and back on both lines. We’ll fix them. I promise you.”
Walker (4-2, 1-0) trailed 20-14 after Scotlandville put together a 12-play, 66-play scoring drive to open the second half. The big play was a 33-yard pass from Jesse Craig to Marlon Gunn Jr. to the Walker 2, setting up Chance Williams’ 1-yard TD run three plays later.
Williams finished with 154 yards on 30 carries, while Hornet quarterbacks combined to go 19-for-33 for 361 yards and three interceptions.
“They were getting some chunks at times, and we’ve got to do a better job on some down things, and sometimes we had them in some great down-and-distance situations, and we let them off the hook,” Mafaffey said. “Again, those guys have got good players, so they’re going to do that to a lot of people. I was pleased with our effort, and our guys just kept fighting and did enough to get a win against a good team in district.”
Walker countered with an eight-play, 70-yard drive on which Brown carried five times for 45 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run. Bradley Cain’s PAT put the Wildcats ahead for good at 21-20 with 4:32 to play in the third quarter.
“Coach told me at the beginning of the week, he was going to feed me, so he fed me,” said Brown, who had 166 yards on 33 carries. “We condition every week. Our practices are so uptempo like the game, I’m not even tired right now. I could play another game. Coach Mahaffey makes us work during practice, so the game comes easy.”
Scotlandville drove to the Walker 28, but Kerry Flowers picked off a Craig pass, helping set up another Walker touchdown drive that was aided by a facemask call against the Hornets and a 41-yard pass from Ethan McMasters to Peyton Richard, who was wide open along the right sideline to the Scotlandville 16.
Five plays later, Brown carried in from a yard out, pushing the lead to 28-20 two plays into the fourth quarter.
“I think he’s got some really good ability as a running back,” Mahaffey said. “I still think, A – he doesn’t have that much game experience, and B – he was kind of banged up the last couple of weeks. I still don’t know that he’s quite just where he’s going to be, but he can make a lot of plays for us. They’ve been kind of trading turns. Demetri (Wright) was more banged up this week, so hopefully one day we’ll get them both rolling, but Keondre had to carry it and he did a great job.”
Walker’s Tristan Thompson recovered a fumble at the Scotlandville 25, setting up another touchdown. McMasters scrambled for 18 yards on fourth-and-12 to keep the drive alive, setting up a 4-yard TD run from Brown two plays later for a 35-20 lead.
Scotlandville wasn’t done, getting pass completions of 15 and 24 yards, to go with a personal foul and a pass interference call against the Wildcats, leading to a 4-yard touchdown run from Williams for the final margin with 7:36 to play.
After a Walker punt, the Hornets drove to the Walker 22, but safety Aubrey Womack intercepted Teasett to end the drive.
After a scoreless first quarter, Walker broke the stalemate in a big way when McMasters hit Jasper Turner for a 32-yard gain on the second play of the second quarter, setting up McMasters’ 17-yard touchdown pass to Thomas on the next play, helping the Wildcats to a 7-0 lead.
“We need to get the ball a little more to him,” Mahaffey said of Thomas, who finished with six catches for 56 yards. “I felt we had some opportunities to get him there. We did want to kind of run it a little bit. I thought Keondre was doing a good job there, but the more touches we can get him, the more it’s going to help our team and our offense, so we’ve got to work on getting a little better with that.”
Scotlandville answered quickly as Craig hit Reggie King on a 62-yard pass to the Wildcat 13, setting up Williams’ touchdown run on the next play, helping knot the score at 7-7.
From there, the Wildcats put together a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive. Brown carried for five times for 35 yards to key the march. His 22-yard scamper to the Hornet 11 set up McMasters’ 15-yard touchdown pass to Thomas three plays later, helping the Wildcats grab a 14-7 lead with 4:16 to go in the first half.
The Hornets responded again after taking over at their own 35 with Williams carrying four times for 26 yards to open the drive. The Wildcats were then called for encroachment on third-and-3, and two plays later, Craig hit King for 35 yards to the Walker 10.
Three plays later, Williams scored on a 1-yard TD run. Montgomery’s PAT tied the game at 14-14 with 43 seconds left in the half. It came after Williams ran for two points after the Wildcats were called for encroachment. Scotlandville was called for illegal participation, and the Wildcats were flagged for pass interference on the ensuing play.
“It’s one win,” Mahaffey said of the victory. “A big thing for us has been consistency. I think we had our most consistent week of practice … Hopefully, now in this district, we’ve got to have another consistent week. We can’t be up-and-down. We’ll enjoy the win and Sunday put it behind us and learn from our mistakes and be better next week against Live Oak.”
WALKER 35, SCOTLANDVILLE 27
Score By Quarters
Scotlandville 0 14 6 7 -- 27
Walker 0 14 7 14 -- 35
WHS – Brian Thomas 17 pass from Ethan McMasters (Bradley Cain kick)
SHS – Chance Williams 13 run (Nick Montgomery kick)
WHS – Thomas 15 pass from McMasters (Cain kick)
SHS – Williams 1 run (Montgomery kick)
SHS – Williams 1 run (Montgomery kick)
WHS – Keondre Brown 11 run (Cain kick)
WHS – Brown 1 run (Cain kick)
WHS – Brown 4 run (Cain kick)
SHS – Williams 4 run (Montgomery kick)
First Downs 24 17
Rushes-Yards 39-145 39-171
Passing Yards 361 143
C-A-I 19-33-3 10-16-1
Punts-Avg. 1-20 4-46
Fumbles-Lost 6-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 13-103 14-120.5