Game: Walton vs. Norcross, 12:30 p.m., Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Sat.
Last meeting: Norcross 46, Walton 14 (August 20, 2016)
All-time series: Norcross leads 3-1
Prediction: Norcross 17, Walton 10
Walton already knows it will have a less experienced team this season.
Now the Raiders are going to find out exactly where they stand when they square off against Norcross on Saturday afternoon at Mercedes Benz Stadium as part of the Corky Kell Classic.
Walton was coming off two productive seasons under third-year coach Daniel Brunner that resulted in a combined 21-3 record and a pair of second round trips in the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs.
But the Raiders took a big hit to graduation including wide receiver Dominick Blaylock (Georgia), receiver Kendall Alford (Western Carolina), quarterback Austin Kirksey (Nevada) and running back D.J. Soyoye. Also gone are last year’s leading tacklers in Malik Adams, Conner West and Trey Middleton.
The newer faces have a chance to shine when the Raiders go up against two-time state champion Norcross. Brunner and the coaching staff got a good at their potential during its scrimmage against Kell two weeks ago.
“We had some guys show us what we can do,” Brunner said.
That includes sophomore quarterback Zak Rozman, who earned plenty of varsity experience as a freshman last year when Kirksey got hurt. Brunner compliments his strong arm and his continued progression into the opening week of the season.
With inexperience at the skill positions on both sides of the ball, Walton will depend greatly on both offensive and defensive lines where the bulk of their experience is returning.
Walton, which finished second in Region 4AAAAAAA before falling to Hillgrove in the second round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs, will be facing a Norcross team that also advanced to the second round.
Brunner said Norcross has a balanced offense but expects the Blue Devils to establish the run when the two teams take the field.
“The biggest thing on the defensive side of the ball is to eliminate big plays,” Brunner said. “On offense, it’s all about protecting the ball. We always talk about controlling the ball and controlling the game. If we can do that, it can put ourselves in position (to win) in the fourth quarter.”