“It opened our eyes for a lot of kids,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “We came in preseason rated whatever, and we lost a lot of great players (from last season). And we had good players coming back, but we lost nine on defense and seven of those went on to play college ball.
“We probably thought that we were better than we were, really and truly. We need to go out and work and that’s what it comes down to.”
As Walton (2-1) licks its wounds, Hidalgo said his team would still continue to prepare and play, as the Raiders’ fans are used to seeing them play.
“There’s no substitute for hard work,” he said. “At 4 o’clock on Monday (afternoon), the Walton Raiders will be working our tails off to get better. It just is what it is. (North Cobb) coach (Shane) Queen and his staff did a great job. We didn’t make plays when we needed to make it.”
While the Raiders weren’t happy with how Friday went, North Cobb was nearly ecstatic. After having a two-week break following its win over Starr’s Mill to open the season, the Warriors had what could potentially be considered a program-defining upset win.
“It’s got to be (an upset) when you have the No. 3 team in the state against us,” Queen said. “But our kids felt like they could play with somebody, and that’s why you get to go out and play the game. Our kids prepared hard for two weeks.
“(Friday) night, and any given night, anyone can beat anyone else. (Friday) night was one of those nights. To beat a team like Walton is obviously unbelievable. The respect that we have for their program is what we are trying to model ours after. We want to become a top-five team and play for state titles. To be mentioned in that same breath is an honor.”
While Queen was happy that his team won, especially in such a dominating fashion, he was quick to concede that the extra time to prepare for the Raiders was helpful and contributed to pulling off the unlikely victory.
“That’s huge,” he said. “Anytime you play a team like that, which uses so many formations, to be able to watch film for two weeks and see the same play after play after play for 9-10 days rather three or four, that’s huge.”
On top of getting a big effort from Xavier Borishade, who finished with four touchdowns, including one on a kickoff return to open the game, the Warriors’ winning effort included limiting Walton dynamo Tyren Jones.
Jones finished with 181 rushing yards on 35 carries, but after consecutive weeks of finishing with more than 300 yards, North Cobb was able to limit Jones’ impact on the final score.
“I’ll be honest” Queen said. “Our defensive coordinator, Chad McGehee, spent hours and hours and hours to get the kids in the right positions. You’re not going to tackle that guy with one guy, two guys or three guys. It will take a total team effort. He was able to break a tackle or two, but we were able to get an extra guy on him.”
Along with North Cobb’s upset win, Pope earned its first win of the season after consecutive lopsided losses. The Greyhounds won 20-17 in overtime over Etowah, a team that had come off a shutout victory over Centennial the week before.
“We’ve played football at Pope for our fifth season (since I’ve been coach), and we are the underdog for the majority of the time,” Pope coach Matt Kemper said. “That’s something our kids have rallied around for the last several years. A lot of the times, it’s easier playing as an underdog than as a favorite.”
With a mostly new team, following the losses of key players like Holland Frost and Myles Everett, the Greyhounds hosted Etowah for homecoming. The reminder of Pope’s successful past, leading back to last season’s region championship, was present both before the game and in the Greyhounds’ performance.
“It’s about the current team showing those kids that were here before and built things that we still play the same brand of football,” Kemper said. “I was real proud that we did that. They were going to go out, play great defense, and we were going to go out and kick the ball well. That’s going to be our signature.”
In other action around Cobb County, Marietta beat Hillgrove 27-13 at Northcutt Stadium. The victory was a bit of sweet revenge for the Blue Devils, who lost to the Hawks 48-8 last year as part of their 0-4 start to the season.
After falling behind at Kennesaw Mountain 26-14, South Cobb rallied from behind to win 28-26. The Eagles are no strangers to late-game drama, as they played to a 28-24 finish against Sprayberry last week and came from behind to beat Windsor Forest 32-28 in the postseason last year.
Pebblebrook put a scare into McEachern, leading 13-7 in the first half, but the Indians tied the game late in the half and eventually eked out a 30-23 victory — their first of the season.