Eagles running back Tyler Henderson’s three first-half touchdowns doomed the Raiders to a second straight first-round playoff exit at the hands of a Gwinnett County foe, as Collins Hill rolled to a 41-7 victory over Walton on Friday night.
The Eagles started five of their seven first-half possessions in Walton territory thanks to the struggles of the Raider offense, which managed only two first downs and 52 total yards through two quarters.
Rainy conditions led to several wayward punts and one muffed snap on special teams, and the Eagles did not get caught off guard when Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo took a chance by calling a fake punt midway through the second quarter.
“We actually moved the ball, we just didn’t have any consistency,” Hidalgo said. “We couldn’t make a play all night long, it just kind of is what it is. We couldn’t get that play we needed to make, and that’s just kind of the way it was (Friday).”
The teams traded speculative deep balls in a sloppy first quarter, testing the mettle of their passing attacks in adverse conditions for both offenses. After a handful of near-misses, Eagles quarterback Tyler Herman connected with Quentin Jones for a 43-yard gain, and Henderson punched in his first score of the night from 2 yards out on the next play.
Henderson finished with 107 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries, spearheading a Collins Hill offense that entered Friday night averaging nearly 54 points per game in the last four contests and 39 points per game on the season. Herman averaged nearly 15 yards per completion, as the Eagles grabbed their yardage in large chunks to keep the Walton defense on the field.
“Honestly, as crazy as it sounds, our defense didn’t play that badly,” Hidalgo said. “We just couldn’t get a rhythm on offense going and we had some short-yardage downs and had some penalties. It was just one of those nights. They’ve got a good football team, and they played really well (Friday).”
The Raiders pulled within 21 on their first possession of the second half when D.J. Smith cut back on an end-around for a 12-yard touchdowns to cap off a 10-play drive, but any hope of an improbable comeback was short-lived.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Henderson burst through a gaping hole in the left side of the line and ran untouched for a 60-yard touchdown to cap the scoring.
The loss wrapped a trying season for the Raiders, who opened the 2013 campaign with back-to-back losses and had only just begun to put their talent together as the season ended.
“They had a lot of opportunities this season and tonight to lay down and fold up their tent, and they fought their tails off,” Hidalgo said of his team, which finished with only six wins for just the second time since 2007.