WALKER – “That’s football.”
Walker interim coach Cecil Thomas offered that simple assessment after a wild fourth quarter saw seven touchdowns scored before his Wildcats defeated Slidell, 40-38.
Walker struck quickly, opening the game by taking the kickoff and driving eight plays for a Ethan McMasters 10-yard touchown pass to Kevin Brady and a 7-0 lead. Wildcat quarterback Byron Lockhart Jr.’s two-yard scoring run and Bradley Cain’s second PAT kick put Walker ahead 14-0.
However, Slidell jumped on the board with Harlan Dixon’s 10-yard touchdown run with 8:56 left in the second quarter cut the lead to 14-7.
Just before half, with 35 seconds left in the second quarter, McMasters padded the lead by finding Thomas between two Slidell defenders at the Tiger 1 and took the ball in himself for a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Wildcats (3-0) led 21-9 going into the final quarter in their home-opener Friday against Slidell (2-1).
Then the offensive “weapons,” as Thomas called his players, took over.
“They answered, we answered. They answered, we answered,” Thomas said. “We’ve got so many weapons. We spread the ball around.”
McMasters completed 19 of 31 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns. Three receivers each had five receptions: Trent Montgomery, 141 yards; Brian Thomas, 131 yards and a touchdown; and Jalen Cook, 71 yards and a touchdown.
But it was defensive back Kolby Moncree’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown with 37 seconds left that put Walker up 40-31 to seal the win.
“It’s a great, quality win for our program,” Thomas said, after the week began with the resignation of Lester Ricard and Thomas being named interim coach for this rest of the season.
“We put our practice plan together. I think we did a great job of that all week,” Thomas said.
Those practice schemes led to Walker converting on a huge fourth down play late in the game. With 2:16 left, Slidell held a 24-21 advantage and the home Wildcats faced a fourth-and-19 from their own 31.
McMasters completed a sideline pass to Montgomery, who turned it into a 40-yard gain to the Slidell 28. A 15-yard penalty after the play put the Wildcats on the Slidell 13, and Cook made a one-hand catch of a McMasters pass at the 10 and raced into the end zone for a 28-24 lead.
“I knew after that fourth-down play, we would win,” Thomas said.
But the visiting Tigers stunned the home crowd when Ishmael Burdin returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and Slidell led again, 31-28.
After two incomplete passes, McMasters found Montgomery crossing over the middle for a 40-yard gain to the Slidell 40. On the next play, McMasters went deep to Thomas for a touchdown and a 34-31 lead with 0:47.
Slidell’s hopes for a victory ended on second down with Moncree’s interception return for a score, pushing Walker's lead to 9.
But Slidell was not finished. Time expired as Tiger quarterback Jacob Guidry found a receiver at the Walker 32 and a penalty gave Slidell an untimed down at the Walker 17.
Guidry finished the game completing 14 of 23 passes for 199 yards. Harlan Dixon had 131 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
Guidry completed a pass to Kadin Bech and kicker Josh Will hit his fourth PAT of the game, but the gap was too large to overcome as Slidell came up short and Walker held on for the win.
The undefeated Wildcats play host to the Parkview Baptist Eagles (0-3) next Friday.
WALKER 40, SLIDELL 38
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Slidell 0 7 2 29 -- 38
Walker 7 14 0 19 -- 40
WHS: Kevin Brady 10 pass from Ethan McMasters (Bradley Cain kick)
WHS: Byron Lockhart Jr. 2 run (Cain kick)
SHS: Harlan Dixon 10 run (Josh Wills kick)
WHS: McMasters 1 run (Cain kick)
SHS: Safety. Ball snapped out of end zone
SHS: Jacob Guidry 1 run (Wills kick)
WHS: Jalen Cool 43 pass from McMasters (Cain kick)
SHS: Ishmael Burdine 96 kickoff return (Wills kick)
WHS: Brian Thomas 40 pass from McMasters (kick failed)
WHS: Kolby Moncree 45 interception return (kick failed)
SHS: Kadin Bech 17 pass from Guidry (Wills kick)
19 First downs 156
148 Rushing yards 26
199 Passing yards 371
14-23-1 C-A-HI 19-31-0
2-13.5 Punt-avg. 2-43
2-2 Fumbles-lost 0-0
9-81 Penalties-yards 8-58