WALKER – As big as Walker’s lead on Thibodaux was, Wildcats coach Chad Mahaffey knew better than to relax.
But on a night when seemingly everything went Walker’s way, he really didn’t need to.
The 16th-seeded Wildcats put together a 28-point second quarter before both teams put on a second-half scoring festival in a 63-21 Walker win over No. 17 Thibodaux to open the Class 5A playoffs on Friday at Wildcat Stadium, giving Walker its first postseason victory since 1999.
“The hard part with these guys (Thibodaux) is they’ve got such a dangerous football team, you never have a comfortable lead,” said Mahaffey, whose team travels to No. 1 seed Acadiana, a 78-28 winner over No. 32 seed Benton, in the regional round. "We’re proud of our guys. They (Thibodaux) came out the in second half, went a little faster than we’d like, but it was big for our offense to answer in those so you kind of kept that separation.”
After a scoreless first quarter in which Thibodaux was unable to cash in on an Ethan McMasters interception on the third play of the game and later missed a 41-yard field goal attempt, the scoring surge got rolling for the Wildcats.
“I thought our defense played great, and I thought offensively we were a little shaky for that first part,” Mahaffey said after the Wildcats (8-3) recovered four fumbles and got an interception. “That was big for our defense. We put them in a bad spot with a turnover … but no points. They played great.”
On the third play of the ensuing drive, McMasters hit wide receiver Brian Thomas on a short pass, and he made a nifty move to juke a Thibodaux defender and broke loose down the right sideline for a 76-yard touchdown.
“I just saw the hole and I took it, and I scored on it,” said Thomas, who finished with 11 catches for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
Thibodaux lost the handle on the ensuing kickoff which Walker’s Aubrey Womack recovered at the Tigers’ 26. Five plays later, Keondre Brown had a 2-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead.
On the first play of the Tigers’ next drive, Feronte Miller fumbled after a reception, and Walker’s Roger Brooks recovered, setting the Wildcats up at the Thibodaux 41.
Walker went eight plays, with Demetri Wright scoring from a yard out for a 21-0 lead.
“Coach preached it every day in practice,” Wright said. “He was like, ‘Take advantage of every play. If they set you up in good field position, take advantage of it.’ Our defense made stops, and our offensive line got push, and we made big plays.”
The next drive ended when Dakota Wilson blocked a Thibodaux punt, allowing the Wildcats to take over at the Thibodaux 30.
“It’s a plan we’ve been running all week,” Wilson said of the block. “Just like any other play you do, you do your job and then the outcome comes out itself. Everybody doing their assignments, doing their jobs, you (will) come out successful."
Four plays later, McMasters and Thomas hooked up on a 13-yard TD pass, which helped Walker to a 28-0 halftime lead.
“We were clicking,” Thomas said. “We’ve been having good practices. We’ve just been getting a lot of reps in practice. We’ve just been getting back in rhythm and came out and did good.”
Thibodaux (7-4) put together a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive to open the second half, capped by quarterback Luke Alleman’s 11-yard scramble on 4th-and-3, cutting the lead to 28-7.
The big play on the drive was a 31-yard pass from Alleman, who went 20-for-34 for 304 yards and an interception, to Darwin Davis to get the Tigers to the Walker 18.
Walker answered with a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive which was kept alive when Womack carried for a nine-yard gain on a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from midfield.
“We have the play in whenever, but really I think we needed it because they came out ‘Boom!’ scored so quickly,” Mahaffey said of the play. “If we’ve got to punt to them right there. They might go down again. I think you’re in for a dogfight. We just felt it was something if we had a good look that we could maybe execute it, and it looks like they executed it really well.”
Two plays later, Wright, who finished with 135 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, busted a 20-yard run to the Tiger 14, setting up a 13-yard TD pass from McMasters to Thomas for a 35-7 lead.
McMasters went 19-for-25 for 291 yards and an interception.
Thibodaux needed three plays to answer when Alleman went 3-for-3 for 69 yards, capped by an 18-yard TD pass to UL-Lafayette commitment Kyren Lacy, cutting the lead to 35-14.
It took Walker just five plays to score with Wright busting a 20-yard run and McMasters and Thomas connecting on a 38-yard pass to set up Brown’s 14-yard TD run for a 42-14 lead.
“It’s really been probably the last really three weeks where they’ve both really been healthy at the same time,” Mahaffey said of his running backs after Brown had 11 carries for 49 yards and two TDs. “It’s kind of been one or the other. I thought them and the O-line, combined with receivers doing a decent job on the perimeter, that’s big for us. Brian’s always going to be a fixture out there, but the more balance we can have, the better it’s going to make our offense, and they both ran the ball really well.”
Thomas intercepted Alleman in the end zone to end the next Thibodaux drive, and Wright became the workhorse for the Wildcats, carrying seven times for 61 yards on the 80-yard drive, including a 2-yard TD run for a 49-14 lead with 9:05 to play in the game.
“I had texted coach over the weekend. I was like, ‘I need the ball more. I need more carries,’” Wright said. “Then we sat down in practice. He gave me the ball more. I touched the ball and I felt comfortable, and my O-line did their thing up front and got the ball moving.”
The next Thibodaux drive ended when Alleman was sacked and fumbled, allowing Walker’s Zach LaCour to return it to the Tiger 11, setting up Wright’s 8-yard TD run for a 56-14 lead.
Alleman lost another fumble on the next drive, setting up a 91-yard touchdown run by Rayshawn Simmons for a 63-14 lead with 3:53 to play.
Thibodaux returned the kickoff to the Walker 26, setting up Davis’ 6-yard TD run for the final margin.
While the Wildcats have the playoff win they’ve been waiting for for a while, they know there’s more work ahead.
“We’re happy about it, but we’ve got to focus on next week,” Wright said. “We’re playing the No. 1 seed. We’ve got to go and practice, work hard every day and listen to what coach preaches, then come out ready to play on Friday.”
It’s a point Mahaffey hammered home.
“It’s a worthy accomplishment for us,” he said. “It’s not the end goal for our program, but you’ve got to crawl before you walk. We’ve got to get ‘a win’ before you can really talk about multiple wins. I’m glad for them and our school to get to experience that and hopefully (it’s) something that we can continue to build on next week and obviously become something where we’re more of a fixture there in the future.”
WALKER 63, THIBODAUX 21
Score By Quarters
Thibodaux 0 0 14 7 -- 21
Walker 0 28 14 21 -- 63
WHS – Brian Thomas 76 pass from Ethan McMasters (Bradley Cain kick)
WHS – Keondre Brown 2 run (Cain kick)
WHS – Demetri Wright 1 run (Cain kick)
WHS – Thomas 13 pass from McMasters (Cain kick)
THS – Luke Alleman 11 run (Payton Domangue kick)
WHS – Thomas 11 pass from McMasters (Cain kick)
THS – Kyren Lacy 18 pass from Alleman (Domangue kick)
WHS – Brown 14 run (Cain kick)
WHS – Wright 2 run (Cain kick)
WHS – Wright 8 run (Cain kick)
WHS – Rayshawn Simmons 91 run (Cain kick)
THS – Darwin Davis 6 run (Domangue kick)
First Downs 22 23
Rushes-Yards 19-137 27-275
Passing Yards 304 291
C-A-I 20-34-1 19-25-1
Punts-Avg. 1-0 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 5-4 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-47 7-65