Slidell High coach Larry Favre summed up the final four minutes best.
“It was a heavyweight fight,” Favre said. “They’ve got playmakers, and we’ve got playmakers and boy did they turn it on at the end.”
Ultimately, Walker High made just enough huge plays to notch a 40-38 nondistrict win over Slidell on Friday night at home. The teams combined for 41 points in the final 4:17 of a game that featured a little bit of everything, including:
• Jalen Cook’s one-handed grab of a pass from Ethan McMasters. Cook turned and raced the rest of the way to complete a 43-yard play that gave Walker (3-0) a 28-24 lead with 1:49 left. That play followed Trent Montgomery’s 41-yard catch on a fourth-and-21 do-or-die scenario.
• A 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Slidell’s Ishmael Burdine with at the 1:30 mark that put Slidell (1-2) back in front 31-28.
• Brian Thomas, who finished with five catches for 131 yards, carried a McMasters’ pass 40 yards to the end zone with 45 seconds left, giving WHS the lead for good at 34-31.
Yes, There was more drama. Kolby Moncree’s 45-yard interception return made it 40-31 with 13 seconds remaining.
Finally there was a penalty against Walker on the game’s last timed play. That gave Slidell one more play, and Jacob Guidry threw a 17-yard TD pass to Kadin Bech. But there were no more plays … just the final 40-38 score.
Cecil Thomas coached Walker after the resignation of head coach Lester Ricard on Monday. Thomas noted the Wildcats came together and came in prepared, perhaps not for a shootout but for a game that would make a statement.
“I knew when we made the fourth-down play we were going to win the game,” Cecil Thomas said. “We had no choice but to go for it, and we made it. So proud of our kids … they responded and never quit. They’ve been through a lot this week.”
McMasters completed 19 of 31 passes for 391 yards and 3 TDs. Montgomery was the top receiver for the Wildcats with five catches for 141 yards, while Cook finished with five catches for 71 yards.
The numbers for Slidell also were impressive. Guidry completed 14 of 23 passes for 199 yards and a TD, while Harlan Dixon ran for a game-high 131 yards on 23 carries with two TDs.
Brian Thomas was the facilitator for the Walker offense in the first half. The 6-foot-4 sophomore caught three passes that set up TDs as McMasters completed 14 of 21 passes for 182 yards as Walker built a 21-7 lead.
“This was the most exciting football game I’ve ever been part of,” Brian Thomas said. “Before I caught it (TD pass), I signaled to the quarterback (McMasters) to throw it to me on a go route. And when I caught it, I knew I had to get to the end zone.”
Moncree added, “We went through a lot this week and had a lot of people in our heads, telling us things. It was good to play and win.”
While he had no problem with how his team finished, Favre noted a slow start put his team behind the curve in the first half. The Tigers’ Dixon was still processing what happened as he walked toward the team bus.
“We played hard and fought to the end,” Dixon said. “I’ve never been in a game like this before. It was something.”