WALKER – Walker defensive coordinator Lewis Inmon embraces a favorite refrain from his father.
“Either you’ve got speed or you’re chasing it,” Inmon said. “I’ll take speed over size any day of the week. I love it. We let those kids play.”
With the return of six starters from a year ago, Walker had an established list of proven playmakers, ranging from linebacker Cade Seymour to strong safeties BJ Lockhart and Calvin Watson.
Through two weeks, Walker (2-0), which hosts Slidell (1-1) in its home opener at 7 p.m. Friday, has produced another fast, athletic group that’s allowed 12 points and just 207 yards per game.
They’ve also displayed the ability to be a big-play unit that’s feasted on opportune turnovers with a different cast of players creating their own identity.
“When you make a big play, it obviously hypes the defense up,” Walker senior outside linebacker Dakota Wilson said. “Once our defense picks up energy and comes alive, we’re dangerous.
“When we start flying around we get nasty, especially with BJ’s big hits and Calvin’s big hits and interceptions,” Wilson said. “It fires us up -- any big play anyone gets fires us up, and that’s when we start picking up the momentum and the energy. We start making more big plays.”
A year after serving primarily as a backup until the latter stages of the season when he played defensive tackle, the 222-pound Wilson has found a home at outside linebacker in the place of injured Tyler Whittington.
It was Wilson who delivered the first key defensive play of the regular season, dropping back into coverage with his team leading 21-18 over Dutchtown and returning an interception 7 yards for a touchdown.
“It wasn’t the best night I’ve ever had with not a lot of tackles, not a lot of plays,” Wilson said to the point of his interception. “It was thrilling to make that play for my team and help us out by stretching the lead. I’m happy to be able to make plays for the team -- be that guy to make that big tackle, the big hit or the interception.”
That triggered a 14-point run over a four-minute span of the fourth quarter in which sophomore Keondre Brown followed suit, returning an interception 35 yards for another score to stretch Walker’s lead to 35-18.
“These guys have been gearing up for the season to be special,” said Walker coach Cecil Thomas, who was named the team’s interim coach Monday after head coach Lester Ricard resigned. “They put a lot of work into this, they play together and have high expectations of themselves. They don’t expect to get beat. They expect to dominate every time they get on the field, and that’s what makes them special.”
With Lockhart’s team-high eight interceptions in 2017, the Wildcats defense was a turnover-producing machine with a total of 17 takeaways.
That trend’s continued, beginning in the preseason when defensive back TJ Briley registered an interception and defensive end Ke’Andre Ventress a fumble recovery in the team’s scrimmage at Comeaux.
A week later, cornerback Kolbe Moncree recorded an interception in the team’s jamboree against Catholic, but when it counted most, he helped ignite Walker in last week’s win over Broadmoor.
Moncree triggered a stretch of 21 unanswered points with a second quarter interception return of 24 yards for a score to snap a second-quarter tie.
“The back-end guys are phenomenal,” said Inmon, who served as co-defensive coordinator in 2017 and was elevated to defensive coordinator this week after Marcus Brown resigned. “They’re fast, fly around and will hit you. They’re physical and good in coverage. They’re good kids and take to coaching. They’re well-rounded athletes.”
Thomas believes the challenge facing his defense will be another stern one with Slidell bringing in an offense that piled up 39 points a week ago in a 39-7 win over John F. Kennedy.
“They’re a good football team and this is going to be a good test,” Thomas said. “We want to be tested and see how we stack up.”