After being bottled up in the first half, Central unleashed its leading rusher Glen Cage to touch off a series of big plays in the final 30 minutes.
Cage scored on consecutive 57-yard runs within a three-minute span to help fuel a 21-point third quarter, which also included a 65-yard punt return from Tyler Heil for another score, in Central’s 45-28 District 4-5A victory Friday over Walker.
“I think he kind of got down on himself after he had the fumble,” Central coach Sid Edwards said of Cage. “We just encouraged him. It happens on Sundays. But he came out, the offensive line played better, and he had a great second half.”
After Walker limited Cage to 19 yards on 12 carries, the junior averaged 26.3 yards per carry with seven attempts for 184 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to finish with 203 yards on 19 carries.
Central (6-2, 2-1) outgained Walker (3-4, 1-2) 467 to 334. That included 343 yards rushing.
Quarterback Jonathan Swift accounted for 227 yards and threw for a touchdown to tight end Adyn Wilkinson and ran one in from 11 yards out. He had 11 carries for 103 yards and completed 9 of 19 passes for 124 yards. Wilkinson led the way receiving with five catches for 75 yards.
Walker, with junior wide receiver Warren Young Jr. filling in at quarterback for an injured Hunter Bethel, was led by JaCory Thomas’ 96 yards on five carries and a pair of TDs.
“The bottom line is we put the defense on the field too many snaps (40) in the first half, and I think that helped catch up to us,” Walker coach Chad Mahaffey said. “They’re dangerous. That’s why we’ve got to play four quarters.”
Walker made it 38-28 with 10:15 left in the game on Thomas’ 69-yard sprint, but Cage added a 2-yard TD run three plays later at the 9:03 mark.
Walker scored on its final series of the first half that Young finished with a 23-yard TD pass to Jarvis Patterson to get within 17-15 with 31 seconds to go before halftime.
Central overcame an 8-7 deficit early in the second quarter with 10 consecutive points for a 17-8 lead with 1:24 remaining on a 20-yard field goal from Nathan Zimmer and Swift’s 11-yard scramble out of the pocket.
“I was concerned with how we would respond,” Edwards said of his team’s 37-26 loss last week to Scotlandville. “At times we looked a little punch drunk in the first half. At halftime, they came back out and established themselves and did a good job.”