With the final scheduled start of the evening, Walton vs. Brookwood was the main event of the 2012 Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic. After impressive wins by Kell, Grayson, North Gwinnett and Camden County earlier in the day, the Raiders and Tyren Jones were the grand finale and turned their game into a highlight reel. Walton was making its return to the Dome where they fell short eight months ago in the Class AAAAA state championship game against Grayson. Coming off their best season in school history, the Raiders will once again look to Jones to carry them to new heights.
The star running back was named Georgia’s 2011 offensive player of the year as a junior, and it was no secret Saturday night who was going to be getting the ball. The defensive game plan was well defined heading in for the Broncos, but Jones was still able to manufacture more plays and heroic touchdown runs than you would see most players put together in a season. This was his best game yet as a Raider, and if his 2,375 yards and 38 touchdowns from a season ago are going to be surpassed, it is going to take special nights like this. More importantly, if the team hopes to match the success of last year, it will be Jones who will get them there. He certainly set the tone last night with 302 yards on 31 carries with five touchdowns, providing nearly all of the Raiders’ points in their 35-24 win.
Walton Coach Rocky Hidalgo and his staff still found ways to surprise the Broncos. Raider kicker Anthony Price executed a perfect onside kick to open the game when he sent the ball dribbling just past 10 yards and recovered it. Jones gained 12 yards on his first carry, but an offensive penalty later killed the drive. This was something the coaching staff hopes to iron out before next game. Third and longs are the kryptonite to a team trying to establish the run and these penalties allowed the Broncos to hang around in this ball game.
On the Broncos’ opening possession, they moved the ball with ease. Jamaal Core and Josh Brown were getting big gains on the ground and quarterback Zach Moon was moving the chains through the air. The Raiders can be satisfied with the overall defensive effort in the win, but glaring weaknesses with perimeter tackling still flaw this unit. The Broncos would have to settle for the field goal, though, after Walton’s Robert McCarthy made a key tackle that resulted in a loss of 3 yards on third and one from the 8-yard line.
On the next offensive possession, Walton took over from their 20-yard line and handed it off to its main playmaker three straight times. After chipping away on first and second down, Jones exploded to a 71-yard touchdown and changed the game. The run was equally exciting to the Raiders as it was shrinking to the Broncos defense. The first quarter ended with a 7-3 Walton lead, and for much of the next two quarters, the defensive pressure would continue to heat up on Moon.
A Moon pass was tipped up and intercepted by Walton’s Jordan Davoudpour on the 36-yard line. The following play, Jones took it 18 yards down into the red zone. On third and 13, Parker McLeod made one of his big throws that moved the chains by finding tight end Brad Green, who hauled it in despite the Bronco traffic and contact. This drive was capped off with a Jones one-yard touchdown and the lead was pushed to 14-3.
Brookwood answered back with a big drive, but hard hits by Raider defenders started to wear on the Broncos. Ridge Gibson blew up the backfield for a loss of five. Walton’s star big man Brandon Kublanow played well blocking for Jones, and defensively was equally imposing. The weakness was the secondary and penalties. A roughing the passer call tacked on 15 yards to a completion to Ky Priester. Later in the drive, it was again Priester who caught a big gain on D.J. Smith, Walton’s big junior prospect. The Brookwood receivers were either perimeter blocking masters or the secondary was not getting off their blocks. Either way, Cole was able to break outside and scamper in untouched for the 20-yard score that closed the lead to 14-10 heading into the half.
The Walton offense started the second half with a statement, and, after penalties and miscues held them back in the first half, they ignited. Jones picked up two first downs then McLeod hit an open Maurice Gibson on the play action pass down to the Broncos’ 48-yard line. On the next play, Jones found a lane and burst for his third score of the night.
The following possession, the Walton secondary held its ground and three straight Moon passes fell incomplete. Jones fielded a short punt and downed it on the 34-yard line. Jones carried the ball all four times using his signature spin move before he reached the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the night.
Defensively, it was clear that Walton’s new coordinator Chris Stewart had his guys in position to make plays. Blake Montz and the pass rush were teeing off on Moon and recorded big-time sacks. Most of the big plays were a result of missed tackles and poor angels, which is something that can improve as the group grows together.
At the start of the fourth quarter and after a Bronco 3-and-out, another poor punt gave Walton the ball on their 44-yard line. Brookwood’s defense was worn out trying to keep pace with Jones, and from 52 yards out, he escaped for his fifth touchdown of the night, giving the Raiders a 35-10 lead with nine minutes remaining.
Jones was pulled from the game at this point and Walton would run the clock out with their reserves. Brookwood kept fighting with its first unit and brought the final score to 35-24 .
This was a big victory for the Raiders who could be Cobb County’s top team again this season. As for the top running back in Georgia this season, Norcross’s Alvin Kamara will have some serious catching up to do next week in the Blue Devils’ season opener at South Gwinnett. Walton will face the McEachern Indians next Friday, who looked talented in their close loss to the defending champion Grayson Rams.