Walker dominates at Northshore to earn quarterfinal berth
SLIDELL – Walker and Northshore came in to the second round of the LHSAA Playoffs in unfamiliar territory by overcoming the odds and having very outstanding seasons. Both teams had a chance to make school history on Friday night at Northshore Stadium.
Neither program has reached the quarterfinal round of the LHSAA football playoffs.
Northshore had a lot of missed opportunities while Walker capitalized on theirs to clinch their first ever LHSAA state quarterfinal berth in a 28-2 victory in the regional round of the Division I Non-Select playoffs.
Walker (10-2) set the tone early with a 55-yard drive on seven plays. CJ McClendon punched in a one-yard touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. Walker had another scoring opportunity but it was snuffed out by an interception by Rogie Mcgee.
The Wildcats used a big play to double their lead. Troy Sylve’s 53-yard touchdown pass to Jamari Evans gave the visitors a 14-0 advantage.
While their offense was challenged all night, Northshore (6-6) got on the scoreboard via special teams asWalker’s Preston Hill was tackled in the end zone by JoVaughn Richardson for a safety to make it 14-2.
The Wildcats had a chance to score before the end of the half but TJ Coleman came up with another Panthers interception in the end zone.
“We played together like a family and that’s what we usually do,” said Evans. “We executed, did what we suppose to do and we made it. Troy is a playmaker. We give him the confidence with our O line blocking and let him do what he does. It’s good to say that we’re the only team that did it. We don’t want to stop here but want to keep going.”
The Panthers defense hung tough through the third quarter with some key stops including another interception, this time by Kyle Williams.
Walker iced the game with a big play on fourth down and 8. Sylve connected with Evans for a 37-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 22-2.
The Wildcats put the game completely out of reach with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown by E’Sean Elphage.
“We had a good week of preparation and I felt we did it all,” said Sylve. “I had it on my mind all night and I had good blocks up front. I threw a couple of picks but I shook back and threw another touchdown. We’re going to do good. We’re going to get a good week of preparation and we’re going to show what we got.”
Walker had over 288 yards of total offense that includes 228 passing yards and 60 rushing yards. Evans led the Wildcats with eight catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Sylve finished 13-of-21 passing for 228 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. McClendon had 18 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown.
“Our defense has led us in the back half of the year. Northshore has an outstanding defense as well and points was going to be tough,” said Walker Head Coach Chad Mahaffey. “I thought it was great to get some points early. We probably didn’t capitalize on some setups the defense gave us. We got to get better at that. This is a big step for our team and program. I’m proud of these guys and I’m glad they will experience Thanksgiving football.”
Northshore was held to 129 yards of total offense, including 57 passing and 72 rushing. Jayden Scott had four catches for 64 yards. Bryce Cherry finished with 14 carries for 64 yards. Weilbaecher was 6-of-19 passing for 57 yards and an interception.
“Unfortunately we didn’t have it on offense and that’s been the story all year. They (Walker) are a great team. Give them a lot of credit,” said Northshore Head Coach Bobby Sanders. “I’m proud of the way they responded and hung together after starting 0-3. I appreciate the effort. These guys were warriors the whole year on defense. We got to do things different on offense in the future and find ways to score points again.”
Walker will travel to top-seeded Ruston next Friday night in the Division I Non-Select state quarterfinals.