The Walker High School football team entered Friday night’s regular-season finale against District 4-5A rival Central knowing it had already secured a second straight playoff berth.
The mission: gather momentum before likely hitting the road to start postseason play.
The Wildcats did just that, surging to a big early lead and controlling Central throughout in a 45-14 home victory.
From quarterback play to special teams, Walker had it all in this one.
“We got great contributions across the board,” Walker coach Lester Ricard said. “Very proud of this senior group for getting Walker into the playoffs for the second year in a row.”
Sophomore quarterback Ethan McMasters played for the first time since suffering a Week 3 collarbone injury, receiving most of the snaps but also giving way to freshman Christian Ard or junior Byron Lockhart in certain spots.
McMasters finished 8 of 13 for 172 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to Darius Hampton on the opening possession.
Ard had two completions late in the game, including an 18-yard TD toss to Hampton to complete Walker’s scoring. Lockhart was electric on the ground, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown on only eight carries.
Ricard said McMasters would start next week for the Wildcats (6-4, 3-3), who reached the playoffs last year for the first time since 2001. But he expects Ard, who threw most of the passes while McMasters was sidelined, and Lockhart to serve roles in the offense.
“I think they all three have great strengths,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “It’s pick your poison. I think all three boys can play.”
And they all have help.
In the receiving corps, Hampton led the way Friday with three catches for 82 yards and the two scores, but Jalen Cook (three catches for 65 yards) and Trent Montgomery (two for 52) also were involved.
In the running game, Tristan Taylor found the end zone twice and finished with 69 yards on 11 carries.
Even the special teams shined.
Qaeshon Clark nearly went the distance on the second-half kickoff, settling for a 65-yard return that led to Taylor’s 32-yard touchdown run. Kicker Caleb Wall later drilled a 34-yard field goal.
“They are very good,” Edwards said. “They’re dynamic offensively, and we didn’t really have an answer for anything they were doing.”
Edwards tried to keep pace by attempting two fake punts and several onside kicks.
But even when the ball bounced Central’s way, Walker’s defense was game.
Central (4-6, 2-4), which managed only 186 yards of offense, showed its most promise when Parker Evans scored on a 9-yard run to make it 21-7 with 2:42 left in the first half. Its only other points came on another Evans touchdown — this one from 36 yards out — with the game long decided.
As the Wildcats headed home, they weren’t sure if they would have another game next week.
Edwards wasn’t optimistic.
“We’re at the mercy of what everyone else did,” he said.