The Raiders’ first two opponents — Brookwood and McEachern — both made the state playoffs last season as did the Warriors. And all three are considered strong contenders to return to the postseason this year.
Fortunately for Walton, which had to withstand back-to-back strong performances from the Brokwood and McEachern, a bye week last week allowed the team to rest and heal before going up against the Warriors (1-0). It was a much needed respite for the Raiders (2-0), who are ranked third in the state.
“This bye week is coming at a great time for our kids,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “They had to recover between playing a very competitive scrimmage against Hillgrove and then back-to-back games against two more very good football programs in Brookwood and McEachern. So, from a health standpoint, the bye week worked out well because we have a couple of guys who are banged up who were able to get a little more treatment.”
Walton also used the time to improve its defense which gave up 24 points to Brookwood and 35 to McEachern over the first two weeks of the season.
“Our other emphasis was to work on our defense,” Hidalgo said. “We’ve thrown those guys to the wolves against Brookwood and McEachern. Those were two very good offensive teams. We lost nine guys on defense from last year, but we can do better.
“The guys are learning and we hope they can continue to make an impact. Hopefully, at the end of the season, we’ll be able to line up against anybody in the state and compete on both sides of the ball.”
North Cobb also had an early bye week after taking down Starr’s Mill 42-3 on Aug. 31. Although the teams haven’t faced each other since 2003, the Warriors know how dangerous these current Raiders can be.
“They’re one of the top three teams in the state, and their ranking is well-deserved,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “Their coaching staff does a great job and they have one of the most dynamic running backs in the state. Their defense really swarms to the ball, and they play well on special teams. They don’t beat themselves, so we’ll have to play smart football.”
Queen acknowledged that, despite the score, the Warriors could have been sharper in their season-opening victory against Starr’s Mill. The kind of mistakes they made in that game can’t be duplicated against Walton which will take advantage of your mistakes.
“We played well at time against Starr’s Mill, but we were inconsistent at times,” Queen said. “We have to play better against a team like Walton. (Running back) Tyren Jones is the type of guy that if you don’t tackle him on the first hit, he’ll score on you.”