BATON ROUGE – Of the first four offensive plays that Walker High ran from scrimmage, two turned disastrous, setting an ominous tone which the Wildcats never recovered from.
Walker wound up turning the ball over four times – three in the first half, which all resulted in touchdowns – and helped pave the way for reigning Division I state runner-up Catholic High to register a 42-12 jamboree victory Friday at Memorial Stadium.
The Wildcats open the regular season at home Sept. 6 against Madison Prep at 7 p.m.
“It’s about the absolute worst way you could play to start,” Walker first-year coach Chad Mahaffey said. “They don’t need any help. They’re really good.”
Catholic blitzed Walker quarterback Ethan McMasters on the third play of the game, forcing a fumble which Hayden Shaheen returned 12 yards for a touchdown.
On the first play of the Wildcats' next series, McMasters completed a short pass toward the sideline to Brian Thomas, who was stood up and had the ball knocked out, and the Bears recovered at the 28-yard line.
Four plays later, highlighted by a 23-yard run on first down, Catholic’s quarterback Landon O’Connor scored on a zone-read play from five yards out to make it 14-0 less than three minutes into the 12-minute first half.
“When three of four of your possessions are turnovers, a scoop and score, it steamrolled downhill and we couldn’t stop it,” Mahaffey said. “That’s something we’re going to have to learn to handle because that’s not the last good team we’re going to play. We’ve got work to do.”
Catholic made it 28-0 by halftime, scoring on a 7-play, 50-yard drive with Braelen Morgan taking an option pitch 27 yards for a score. The Bears cashed in on another Walker fumble, this time Solomon Singleton catching a 17-yard TD from Jackson Thomas.
Walker finally stopped the onslaught – 35-0 after George Hart’s 8-yard TD – when Thomas, who had six catches for 43 yards, emerged through a hole on the ensuing kickoff and made a move on the kicker near midfield en route to a 98-yard return for a touchdown.
“They are who they are,” Mahaffey said of Catholic. “They’ve been in the Dome the last two years and I’m sure they’ll have their chance this year. Obviously, they were much better than we were, but we’ve got to do something to help ourselves. We can’t give the ball away.”
LC Benjamin’s 17-yard cutback run gave Catholic a 42-6 lead with 7:31 remaining when Walker responded with its only sustained drive of the game – an 11-play, 78-yard march – that included five of the team’s six first downs.
McMasters, who finished 8-of-15 with 64 yards and an interception, completed five passes for 57 yards on the drive when Demetrie Wright scored on a 3-yard run on third-and-goal with 3:24 left.
The Wildcats were outgained 255-69 for the game.
“I asked guys not to quit at halftime and to keep battling,” Mahaffey said. “I thought we played better in the second half. Obviously, we dug ourselves too big of a hole. We’ve got to be able to execute when it’s tight and things go bad. We’re not there yet, but’s 0-0 on the season with a chance to start out 1-0 next week.”