This year, Walton has one less regular-season victory, but it looks like it’s playing some of its best football of the year, having won two straight games when its back was against the wall in terms of even making the playoffs.
Walton’s late-season run has it situated as the Region 5AAAAAA No. 3 seed traveling to take on Region 7AAAAAA No. 2 seed and sixth-ranked Collins Hill (9-1) in Suwanee in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs tonight.
Preparing for this year’s first-round playoff matchup was decidedly different from last season. Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo has more options to use at his disposal because there are more healthy bodies.
“I think we had so many guys out last year that it limited what we were able to do,” he said. “It’s a different story this year. We feel like we’re relatively healthy. We’ve lost some guys, like everybody else has, but we feel like we’re relatively healthy and we have a chance to go over there and really compete (tonight) and have an opportunity to win the game.”
Because of Walton’s postseason consistency, having reached the playoffs in 12 of the past 13 years, previous results typically don’t factor into what Hidalgo thinks.
“Every year is a different year,” he said. “I haven’t really thought about last year and have just been focused on (tonight). But I think a lot of our kids got some experience last year in that playoff game and hopefully it will pay off and we’ll play well.”
Walton will likely need to bring its best game to the field against Collins Hill. The Eagles have averaged 53.8 points per game over their last four games and have averaged 39 points per game on the season.
“They’re a four-wide system,” Hidalgo said. “They’re very good on offense. So, we’re going to have to go in there and limit big plays, and tackle well on defense and limit their yardage after the catch and after contact.
“Defensively, they have a big, athletic defensive front. But, we’re going to have to go over there and play Walton football. We’ll have to run the ball effectively and execute in the passing game and play well on special teams if we want to win.”
Game: Walton (6-4) at Collins Hill (9-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Collins Hill 16, Walton 13 (Nov. 19, 1999)
All-time series: Collins Hill leads 1-0
Prediction: Collins Hill 42, Walton 31