The Raiders, win or lose, will be the No. 2 seed in Region 5AAAAAA when the postseason begins. Moreover, the Hornets are basically playing for pride.
So, considering the circumstances, few could blame Walton (7-2, 5-1) for treating the game as an opportunity to rest starters and knock the rust off players who have seen limited action due to injury or depth chart status.
But Raiders coach Rocky Hidalgo is having none of it.
“This is not preseason football — we’re going to play and play to win,” Hidalgo said.
That being said, starting quarterback Parker McLeod will likely see action this week after sitting out with an ankle injury for the last six games to get him back to game speed, and offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow will be held out to make sure his ankle is healthy for next week’s opening round of the playoffs.
Hidalgo did, however, acknowledge the possibility of pulling starters if his team got up big on the homestanding Hornets.
“It depends on how the game goes,” he said. “Our kids deserve an opportunity to win this game.”
Roswell (2-7, 1-5) has not gone quietly against any of its previous opponents, and Walton’s coaches expect that trend to continue.
“Overall, I think they’ve been in every game they’ve played this season,” Hidalgo said. “They’ve been kind of snake-bit in some of those games, but their kids continue to play hard.”
The key matchup the game could likely hinge on pits the Walton linebacker corps against a potent Hornets running game led by workhorse Andrew Kwateng. The senior back gave Lassiter defenders all they could handle last week, rushing for nearly 200 yards and a touchdown in a 28-14 loss.
Hornets’ senior quarterback Ryan Monty will undoubtedly look to further keep the Walton defense off balance with a big passing day.
The Raiders will use the game to shore up their own offensive attack, beginning with their play in the trenches.
“We’ve had so many injuries, we’re just trying to get some continuity and consistency on the offensive line,” Hidalgo said.
As with their previous nine challengers on the schedule, the Raiders are heading into tonight’s contest looking for the same outcome.
The history between the two programs makes it even more interesting.
“We’ve been playing Roswell a long time. It’s a big rivalry game,” said Hidalgo. “Our kids are going to be ready to play this game.”