Walker coach Chad Mahaffey can detail how the seasons for his team and seventh-ranked Zachary High have run along similar paths. Up to one key point.
“We both have new starters at important positions and we lost games early,” Mahaffey said. “There has been a progression where we both started playing better. I think they are playing their best right now and we’re playing well. The one advantage they do have is the experience of being in big games.”
And it will be a big game as two-time defending Class 5A champion Zachary (6-2, 4-0) hosts Walker (7-2, 4-0) to decide the District 4-5A title at 7 p.m. Friday.
It is one of two key Class 5A games that help highlight the Week 10 schedule for local teams in Class 5A/4A. Second-ranked Catholic (9-0, 4-0) travels to Dutchtown (8-1, 3-1) looking to clinch the outright District 5-5A title. All games begin at 7 p.m. on the final night of the regular season.
Seventh-ranked Zachary is coming off its best offensive game — a 55-35 victory over Central. Quarterback Keilon Brown had his first 300-yard passing game of the year for the Broncos, who have won six straight after replacing 18 starters from a year ago. The win streak for Walker is at five.
“We were very pleased with how our offense performed last week,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “We came into the year with four new starters on the offensive line. We felt that once those guys came together and gained experience we could be good.
“We're a program that has been in big games over the last few years and hopefully we can draw from some of that experience. Both teams have playmakers. This may sound crazy, but it may come down to which set of linebackers is able to step up and make plays. In a game like this, the difference between a 3-yard gain and a 9-yard gain can be huge.”
Brown leads the Broncos with 1,301 yards passing and 15 touchdowns. The Memphis commitment also has 729 yards rushing with 10 TDs. Wide receivers Chris Hilton Jr. of Zachary and Brian Thomas Jr. of Walker are two of Louisiana’s top 2021 prospects. Thomas leads area receivers with 57 catches for 939 yards and 14 TDs, while Hilton has 22 catches for 432 and seven TDs in four-plus games since returning from an offseason foot injury.
This is Mahaffey’s first year at Walker, but the coaches know each other well. Brewerton’s Broncos played Mahaffey’s University High teams the past two years. Both are former Catholic High players.
Physicality is the calling card for Zachary, while Brewerton credits Mahaffey’s ability to attack the weaknesses of opposing defenses is a calling card for Walker.
“It could come down to whoever can get their top players in space to make the most players,” Mahaffey said.
CATHOLIC AT DUTCHTOWN: Big challenge equals huge reward? That is how Dutchtown coach Guy Mistretta sees his team’s matc-up with Catholic.
“I think our guys are very excited about it,” Mistretta said. “We know what we’re up against. Catholic is just so solid in every phase of the game. They do what they do over and over again until they wear you down. With this being the last game of the regular season, both teams want to play well, heading toward the playoffs.”
Catholic is alone atop the 5-5A standings. A win by Dutchtown could force a two or three-way tie in 5-5A. East Ascension (7-2, 3-1) gave DHS its district loss. The Spartans host rival St. Amant (5-4, 2-2) Friday.
Dutchtown sophomore Dylan Sampson leads all area rushers with 1,472 yards and 20 TDs. Quarterback Jackson Thomas has 1,377 yards passing and 16 TDs for Catholic.