MARIETTA -- Walton scored on the last offensive play of the first half, then intercepted Pope on the first play of the second half as the Raiders rolled to a 34-10 win over east Cobb rival Pope during senior night at Raider Valley.

Walton improved to 2-0, while Pope lost its season opener.

"It's huge," Walton coach Daniel Brunner said of the rivalry win. "Hat's off to Pope. They played a great game. That's a good ball team. We caught them on their first game of the year."

Pope coach Tab Griffin said his players would lick their wounds and learn from their loss to one of the top teams in Class AAAAAAA.

"It was a test," Griffin said. "We knew coming in it was Game 1 for us, and we had some first-game jitters. We missed some long passes. Game 2 or Game 3, we probably hit those. We need to treat it as another game, not a rival or not our whole season. They had a game under their belt. We learned a lot."

Pope led almost immediately after a 61-yard run by Jasper Merriman on the Greyhounds' first possession only minutes into the first quarter. Merriman received a pitch from quarterback Peyton Cariaco, bobbled it, then found a seam through the confused Walton defense and sprinted in untouched.

Pope intercepted Walton quarterback Zak Rozsman on the ensuing possession and took over at the Raiders' 39, but the Greyhounds could not get any closer.

From there, Walton took over.

Rozsman, who finished 18-of-24 for 320 yards, led the Raiders to the Pope 5, where A.J. Brown rumbled into the end zone to tie the game. Early into the second quarter, running back Braylen Stokes punched it in from the 1 to give Walton a 14-7 lead it did not relinquish.

Backup quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski threw a fade to Stone McKnight in the corner of the end zone midway through the second to extend the Raiders' lead to 21-7.

Hecklinski, a freshman, rotated with Rozsman throughout the game.

"Zak Rozsman's our starting quarterback," Brunner said. "We've got a really good young quarterback (in Hecklinski) and, just like we did when Zak was young, we were trying to get him good and ready to go so when it is his time, he's ready to rock and roll. We have a plan going into games, and we have great quarterbacks. We're fortunate to have them both, but Zak's our starter, and they've had a great competition going through camp, and it continues week by week."

After a booming 52-yard field goal by Pope's Hudson Standfest, Walton scored with 9 seconds left in the half to lead 28-10. After the half, the Raiders intercepted Cariaco on the opening play of the second half, but managed just two field goals the rest of the way, something that caught Griffin's attention.

"We held them to two field goals in the second half," Griffin said. "We just couldn't get anything going on offense. I'm proud of our guys. We did well. We didn't fold at halftime. We fought in the second half."

One key for Walton was stopping Pope's running attack, which was led by Air Force commit Joe Stellmach. The Greyhounds' standout back was held to just 4 yards, and Pope was held to under 100 on the ground until the last drive of the game.

"That's always going to be what we try to do -- take away the run initially," Brunner said. "We knew they had a strong running game."

Walton has won six straight in the backyard rivalry dating back to 2014, and it leads the overall series 19-8.

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