WALKER – Walker showed flashes of the team it wants to become this season in Friday’s jamboree against Catholic High, and the Wildcats showed there’s still some work to be done heading next week’s season opener.
Catholic, the defending Division I state champion, scored 17 unanswered points to pull away for a 24-7 win at Wildcat Stadium.
“I told those guys this was a game of missed opportunities,” Walker coach Lester Ricard said.
“That (Catholic) is a good football team. We played these guys because we wanted to see where we stacked up, and I really like where we are. I don’t know if they had anybody out. We’ve got two of our significant starters out (linebacker Tyler Whittington and defensive lineman Kobe Blalock). We’re going to continue to get better as our season progresses.”
The Bears snapped a 7-7 tie after the first 15-minute half after Walker turned the ball over on downs at the Catholic 47. Brian Thomas hauled in a 28-yard pass from Christian Ard on the drive to get the Wildcats to midfield, but the next four plays netted 3 yards.
“Brian Thomas is exactly who we think he is – a five-star talent,” Ricard said after Thomas hauled in four receptions for 77 yards. “There’s a couple of balls he probably wishes he would have had back.”
That set up a six-play drive from Catholic, which ended in a 42-yard field goal from Matthew Goodson to make the score 10-7 with 7:44 to play. Joshua Parker hauled in a 9-yard pass from Cameron Dartez and broke a 13-yard run to key the drive.
The Bears forced a punt and went on a nine-play, 52-yard scoring drive to pad the lead. Catholic ran the ball eight times behind Dartez (3 carries, 19 yards) and Braelen Morgan (2 carries, 15 yards). Dartez’s 8-yard keeper on fourth-and-4 set up Parker’s 10-yard TD run on the next play to make the score 17-7 with 3:13 to play.
“We’ve got to tackle better late in the game,” Ricard said. “We had a lot of plays in the backfield we didn’t make. That’s missed opportunities. How can you be discouraged outside of the loss?”
Ethan McMasters, who went 2-for-5 for 47 yards in relief of Ard, who came back for Walker's final drive, hit Thomas on a 37-yard pass, and a roughing the passer call moved the ball to the Catholic 38. On the next play, BJ Lockhart came on to play quarterback in the wildcat formation and lost a fumble, which was scooped up by Catholic’s Patrick Delatte and returned to the Walker 38.
Four plays later, Dartez capped the scoring on a 1-yard TD run with 1:07 left. Parker had a 30-yard run to help set up the TD.
“We still had guys in the backfield, so we’ve just got to tackle better, and sometimes tackling comes from maybe we’re tired,” Ricard said. “We shouldn’t be tired, and if we are tired, on Monday I will.”
After holding Catholic on its opening drive of the scrimmage, Lockhart broke loose down the left sideline on a 54-yard TD run that was called back on a holding call. The drive fizzled on downs, and Walker forced a punt. That drive ended when Jonathan Mestayer picked off Ard, who went 7-for-19 for 154 yards and returned the interception 50 yards to the Walker 26.
Four plays later, Dartez connected with Parker on a 14-yard TD pass, helping the Bears to a 7-0 lead with 3:49 to go in the first half.
Walker turned the ball over on downs, but the Wildcats got the ball back when Kolby Moncree picked off Dartez, giving Walker the ball at its own 11.
The Wildcats got their only points of the night on the next play, when Ard hit Jalen Cook on a short route, which Cook took up the right sideline, then cut back inside on an 89-yard catch-and-run for a score to knot things at 7-7 with 16 seconds to play in the first half.
“Brian (Thomas) made a good block and I just found a crease and I just hit it,” said Cook, who caught three passes for 102 yards. “I just ran hard through the hole and just broke it. I didn’t give up on the play – made cutbacks – just did whatever I could to score the ball. I was thinking about (a) touchdown.”
“I feel like we were the better team,” Cook continued. “They made more disciplined plays at the end.”
Ricard expects things to come together for Friday’s season opener at Dutchtown.
“I told my kids there’s levels to this, and if you want to be a 5A contender, you’ve got to go toe-to-toe with these guys,” he said. “That’s why we played them so early, but we’ll be fine.”