It’s no secret that lots of attention is heaped on high school football teams that are winning. Rolling up victories makes it easy to grab headlines and make video highlights.
So where does that leave a team like winless Walker High?
Caught between a rock and another hard place? Or caught up in trying to improve?
The answer may surprise you.
“It doesn’t matter whether you play Friday, Saturday or Sunday, the team that executes the best usually wins,” Walker coach Dwayne Severio said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve been able to execute our offense and put up some points. Defensively, we’ve played well in spots. These guys have bought into what we’ve asked for. We’re focusing on getting better every day. There may not be huge changes, but you find ways to be better, whether it’s learning the right reads to make or how to adjust a pass pattern on a play.”
The Wildcats (0-7, 0-3) travel to play ninth-ranked Zachary High (6-1, 3-0) as District 4-5A play continues Friday night.
Walker is one of three winless teams in the Baton Rouge area. Class 3A Glen Oaks and 1A East Iberville also are 0-7. Being the only winless 5A-4A team offers a special case because of the attention large schools command.
It would be hard to pin down a specific theme for the Wildcats. It’s fair to say a combination of youth and tough luck have formed a not-so-perfect storm. Noting that Walker has never had a winning season in more than a decade in 5A also provides a reference point.
The Walker offense has eight sophomores and one freshman among its starters. Four sophomores and one freshman are among the defensive starters. Two of the juniors are first-year starters as transfers.
Yet there are bright spots. Because only one senior starts, the Wildcats should return 21 of 22 starters for 2015. WHS scrapped its run-oriented offense after a Week 1 loss to now 7-0 St. Michael of Class 4A and shifted to a mid-range passing game.
Junior quarterback Terry Bozeman III, who sat out last season after transferring from Denham Springs, ranks third in the state with 2,001 yards and 19 touchdowns. Sophomore receivers Terrell Warner (738 yards, 9 TDs) and Jacob Kennedy (691 yards, 7 TDs) also rank among the leaders.
“It’s tough when you don’t win,” junior tight end/slot receiver Kyle Rawls said. “But if you look at it, it’s not we’re getting blown out by 50 points. Nobody is giving up. We’re still working.”
The Wildcats have had their share of adversity, including three straight losses by a total of six points. First, Class 2A Springfield edged WHS 43-42. Then 5A Pineville came from behind to win 29-26 before Broadmoor claimed a 48-46 win.
Only in the past two weeks has Walker lost by 30 or more points. Even then, there are miscues and missed opportunities to note. In last week’s 44-10 loss to Live Oak High, the Wildcats led 7-0 and 10-7. They failed to convert on four trips to the red zone and gave up a special teams TD and an interception for a TD.
“You can say it’s because of better competition, youth and or failure to execute,” Severio said. “Or it’s a combination of the three. We’re looking to grow and learn from the mistakes.”
Sophomore running back/slot receiver Jalen Hills added, “It’s hard sometimes but you have to try and get better every day. I think we’ve come together more as a team. We’ve had to learn each other and how to play together.”
The players know the scheduling gods have not done them many favors. After playing Zachary, the Wildcats play district leader Denham Springs (5-2, 4-0) and Central (2-5, 0-3) to close out the season.
“You’ve got to work hard every day and see where that takes you,” junior defensive lineman Brett Ross said. “The whole defense needs to improve. We all need to work on executing assignments. Every game now is a chance to make plays.”
Linebacker Henry Monley, a junior who played at Woodlawn, also sees possibilities not probable mistakes.
“The coaches do a good job of showing us where our mistakes are,” Monley said. “It’s up to us to execute and make the changes.”
Severio has challenged his team to turn the tables and notch a win down the stretch. Bozeman likes that challenge.
“We’ve got to get better at what we do at our positions,” Bozeman said. “Putting it all together is the next step.”