ZACHARY – When Walker High’s Brian Thomas launched his 6-foot-4 frame to block a potential game-sealing field goal, the Wildcats found new life trailing by a touchdown with less than two minutes to play.
When quarterback Ethan McMasters engineered a 6-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a screen pass to Keondre Brown for a 17-yard touchdown with 57 seconds remaining, Walker’s belief grew even more.
Despite having Zachary’s DeJarian Jones break up McMasters’ potential game-tying two-point pass for Thomas, the Wildcats continued to push the issue and when Kerry Flowers came within an eyelash of recovering Bradley Cain’s onside kick, only then were the Wildcats finally out of options.
Walker came tantalizing close to ending a near two-decade drought without a district championship, taking solace in going toe to toe with two-time reigning Class 5A state champion Zachary in a 35-33 setback Friday to determin the District 4-5A championship at Bronco Stadium.
“It hurts, but I think the kids are resilient,” Walker first-year coach Chad Mahaffey said. “I’m glad of our reaction. It’s not a morale victory. We could have won and feel like we should have won. Not to discredit them, but every coach will look at the plays you could have made that would have gotten us over top. I think we’ll bounce back and see where we fall in the playoffs.”
Seventh-ranked Zachary (7-2, 5-0 in 4-5A) sewed up an opening-round home game, while Walker (7-3, 4-1) entertains hopes of also being at home for the second straight year when the playoffs begin Nov. 15.
“It was tough to end up on the other side,” Walker strong safety Aubrey Womack said. “It was a great battle. There were mistakes on both sides of the ball. Putting in all of that work it’s tough coming out on the wrong side. We’ve got to erase that. It’s 0-0 and get ready for the playoffs.”
Zachary’s RJ Allen, who rushed 23 times for 166 yards, scored for the third time in the game, giving the Broncos a 35-27 lead with 6:23 remaining after a 4-yard touchdown.
The Broncos, who stopped the Wildcats on fourth-and-two with 5:09 left, tried to put the game out of reach with a drive that took three minutes off the clock but stalled at WHS’ 8-yard line.
Place-kicker Logan Fletcher set up for a 24-yard field goal in the middle of the field, but Thomas came off the left edge for a block with 1:50 to play, getting the ball back to his offensive team at their own 22-yard line.
A pass interference was the first catalyst in Walker’s drive that picked up steam when Thomas went up to grab a 35-yard reception from McMasters to Zachary’s 17-yard line.
On first down McMasters, 15-of-24 for 214 yards, found Brown on a screen near the sideline that went for a 17-yard score, bringing the Wildcats to within the final score.
Jones dropped into coverage where he was in front of Thomas to knock down McMasters’ attempt.
Wide receiver Jaelon Crear wound up with the onside kick for Zachary after Flowers’ diving effort nearly resulted in a recovery.
“We had to make a play there at the end,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “You almost had a feeling when the field goal got blocked, that’s how the game was going to end. Whether they were going to complete it to go to overtime or not. They had a great shot at the onside kick.”
Walker’s Brown made a strong bid to overshadow Zachary’s talented quarterback Keilon Brown, a Memphis commitment, who passed for 114 yards and rushed for an additional 87 and had a TD.
Keondre Brown accounted for 126 yards on 21 touches and scored four of his team’s five touchdowns. He rushed 15 times for 43 yards and 3 TDs, while adding 83 yards receiving on six catches and a score.
Thomas finished with four catches for 52 yards, Kevin Brady three for 44 and Peyton Richard two for 37.
“That’s Brian doing stuff he’s done, helping in all areas,” Mahaffey said of Thomas’ blocked kick. “He got us down there on the score. (We) Just didn’t get it quite done and (were) still battling on the onside kick. Really fought until the end.”
Zachary, which outgained Walker 383-270, went on a marathon 17-play drive when Keilon Brown rolled to his right, allowing Chris Hilton to make his only catch of the game – a 19-yard score with 1:19 left before halftime for a 21-20 lead.
The Broncos’ lengthy scoring drive resulted in the fourth lead change of the opening half where the Wildcats led 7-0 and 20-14 – both on touchdown runs from Keondre Brown in each of the first two quarters.
The two teams matched each other, scoring on their first two possessions, with Zachary clinging to a 14-13 lead when Walker scored on the first play of the second quarter to finish an 8-play, 79-yard drive.
McMasters twice completed passes to Brady, the second for 35 yards to Zachary’s 3-yard line, where Brown took an option pitch for the remaining two yards and the Broncos blocked the extra point.
Cornerback Kobie Moncree got the ball right back for Walker, returning Brown’s first-down pass attempt 15 yards to Zachary’s 26-yard line. That led to an 8-play drive that Brown capped on fourth-and-goal with a 1-yard score on an option pitch for a 20-14 lead at the 8:07 mark.
“I told them when you invest in something and it doen’t go your way it should hurt,” Mahaffey said. “If it’s a pick-up game at recess, nobody cares because you just showed up and did it. These guys have invested a lot. You risk this feeling when you go all into it. That’s better than not giving it a shot.”
Zachary 35, Walker 33
Score By Quarters
Walker 7 13 7 6 - 33
Zachary 14 7 7 7 - 35
WHS – Keondre Brown 2 run (Bradley Cain kick)
ZHS – Keilon Brown 45 run (Logan Fletcher kick)
ZHS – R.J. Allen 9 run (Fletcher kick)
WHS – Brown 2 run (kick blocked)
WHS – Brown 1 run (Cain kick)
ZHS – Chris Hilton 19 pass from Brown (Fletcher kick)
ZHS – Allen 24 run (Fletcher kick)
WHS – Demetri Wright 19 run (Cain kick)
ZHS – Allen 4 run (Fletcher kick)
WHS – Brown 17 pass from Ethan McMasters (Pass failed)
First Downs 14 20
Rushes-Yards 27-56 37-269
Passing Yards 214 114
A-C-I 25-15-0 22-9-1
Punts-Avg. 3-35 2-30
Fumbles-Yards 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-52 7-80