This shouldn’t be surprising considering that television schedules are far from a player’s mind when they hit the field, but under the circumstances it would be hard to fault the Raiders for knowing what will be on ESPNU Friday at 9 p.m. — after all, it will be them.
Walton gets a primetime kickoff against Milton, and while it won’t be the first time the Raiders have played a televised game, it will be the first time a national broadcast has been made from Raider Valley.
Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said it has taken a lot of paperwork and facility preparation, the players haven’t been fazed.
“To be honest, I don’t care about the broadcast. Our kids don’t care about our broadcast,” said Hidalgo. “It’s about winning the game. At practice, no one even mentioned ESPN. We are just thinking about trying to beat Milton.”
Beating Milton could prove difficult on any night. The Eagles (5-2, 3-1 Region 5AAAAAA) challenged Lassiter just a week ago after stringing together four straight victories — each with a margin of two touchdowns or more.
Milton’s dynamic offense, which averages 37.7 points per game, is fueled by running backs Peyton Barber, a Mississippi commitment, and Treyvon Paulk, who has offers from Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Florida. Between the two, they are rushing for more than 200 combined yards per game.
Walton will also have to worry about the Eagles’ Carl Lawson, a 6-foot-2, 253-pound speed-rusher who has committed to Auburn.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have been trying to patch holes all over the field.
The Walton offensive line has been sluggish and the squad has had to overcome injuries to starting quarterback Parker McLeod, an Alabama commitment, two offensive linemen and three starters on defense.
Thus far, the offensive load has been carried by running back Tyren Jones, another member of the Crimson Tide‘s recruiting class of 2013, who leads the county in rushing with 1547 yards and 15 touchdowns. No other member of the Raiders has accounted for more than three scores.
“We are going to play with the healthy guys,” Hidalgo said. “Our guys will play hard and hopefully we can win.”
A win tonight would go a long way in the Region 5AAAAAA standings. Walton, Milton and Etowah sit with identical 3-1 records in region play. Lassiter (4-0) sits atop the standings and both the Raiders and Eagles can thank the Trojans for their only region losses.
That makes a win tonight mean even more. The victor will have the inside track to earning the No. 2 seed and a first round playoff game at home.
And when it comes time to kick off, the cameras and announcers will still be there.
“It’s neat to have, but really you have got to keep it all in perspective,” said Hidalgo. “It’s still the same game. We’ve played on television a bunch. We have to be able to handle that and hopefully we can.”