Entering his first season as the Walker High head coach, Brandon Lawley made a surprising personnel decision when he moved last year’s offensive coordinator — himself — to the defensive side of the ball.
Lawley knew the Wildcats had to fix a defense that gave up 48 points per game during a winless 2014 campaign, and he had confidence in returning assistant Jason Smith to lead the offense and keep it rolling.
So he joined forces with co-defensive coordinators Gary Coates and Jonathan Maihes to help run the defense.
Three games in, the move seems to be paying dividends.
The offense is once again piling up big numbers behind the prolific right arm of senior quarterback Terry Bozeman, but now the Wildcats are playing the kind of defense that could make them a threat in the District 4-5A race.
Walker has allowed only 7.8 points per game during a 3-0 start in which Lawley’s team has outscored Northeast, Franklin and Capitol by a 180-23 margin.
Though they have not faced the level of competition they will see in district play, it would be hard for anyone to argue that the Wildcats are not an improved club.
Walker has already exceeded its win total from the previous two seasons combined, and the Wildcats can hit the four-win mark for the first time since 2004 by beating winless Broadmoor at home on Friday night.
Offensively, Bozeman has passed for 779 yards and 13 touchdowns to rank among the state leaders.
But if their senior quarterback fails to match the numbers he compiled as the state’s leading passer in 2014, it will probably be because their defense is making enough stops to keep Bozeman and the offense out of tit-for-tat shootouts.
In a 60-3 rout of Capitol last week, Walker’s defense accounted for 20 points on its own.
Josh Cook and Terrance Kaden each scored touchdowns for the Wildcats on fumble recoveries in the end zone, Landon Harper scored one on a 31-yard interception return, and Clarke Turner and Mac Patterson combined to tackle Capitol quarterback DeMarkus Shelton in the end zone for a third-quarter safety.
The Lions finished with just 57 yards of total offense and had minus-58 yards rushing.
Live Oak drops heartbreaker
Instead of earning a signature win Friday against a team that reached the 3A semifinals last year, Live Oak football suffered its toughest setback in coach Brett Beard’s three games at the helm.
Devon Harris erased a 15-point deficit with two special teams scores in the final 15 minutes as West Feliciana rallied for a 28-27 win.
Harris went the distance on 91-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter and then took a 77-yard punt all the way late in the fourth.
A last-ditch field goal attempt by Live Oak’s Nathan Holliday fell short.
The loss spoiled a remarkable night by Live Oak senior Will Higginbotham, who carried 26 times for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
The Eagles (1-2) look to bounce back Friday when St. Michael visits Live Oak.
Denham Springs falls
Denham Springs had zipped to a 2-0 start with a pair of easy home wins, but the road was unkind to the Yellow Jackets in a 27-7 loss to St. Paul’s in Covington.
Denham got its only points of the night on a 55-yard TD run by Tyre Golmond in the waning minutes.
The Yellow Jackets were without senior quarterback Torez Kinchen, who did not play due to disciplinary action.
Denham (2-1) hopes to have better luck on the road Friday when the Yellow Jackets visit McKinley for another nondistrict game matching Class 5A foes.
Springfield edges Albany
Springfield had suffered a pair of tough-break losses to start the season and entered the annual rivalry game against Albany on Friday looking for its first victory.
This time, the Bulldogs had the bounces go their way.
Springfield escaped with a 21-20 victory at Albany, registering its fourth straight win in the series and handing the Hornets their first loss of the season.
Quarterback Damariae Claiborne had 137 yards rushing for Springfield and added a 42-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs (1-2) now turn their focus to district action as they open 9-2A play at home against Pope John Paul on Friday night. Albany (2-1) entertains Crescent City.
Live Oak Middle stays perfect
The Live Oak Middle School football teams kept alive their perfect 4-0 starts last week as both the seventh- and eighth-graders picked up shutout wins.
The seventh-grade team beat Denham Springs 38-0 while the eighth-grade team blanked Juban Parc 28-0.
Following a short break, the seventh grade returns to action with a Sept. 28 home game against Parkview Baptist. The eighth-grade team will face Westside at home on Sept. 30.