Walton won a 44-40 battle over Woodstock, despite having issues with its defensive performance.
Cherokee came out on the short end of a 42-41 decision with Lassiter, in a game that came down to a missed extra-point attempt by the Warriors.
Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo talked about making corrections on defense this week, while Cherokee’s Josh Shaw was most concerned with the Warriors’ special teams heading into the teams’ Region 5AAAAAA game tonight at Tommy Baker Field.
Walton (2-2, 1-0) is looking to revert back to the defense it showed against North Cobb two weeks ago, when is prevailed 28-13 over the returning Class AAAAAA semifinalist.
The Raiders would likely prefer to leave their effort against Woodstock in the rear-view mirror.
“We’re trying to make some strides defensively and, hopefully, we can give another effort like we did against North Cobb,” Hidalgo said. “We made a lot of mental errors (against Cherokee) and allowed them to score points. We have to do a better job at executing our game plan. We played good defense against Peachtree Ridge and North Cobb. We had terrible games against Hillgrove and Woodstock.”
The Raiders will need a strong defensive performance against a Cherokee team that accumulated 612 yards against Lassiter. Quarterback Spencer Ashley threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns, with three of the TDs coming in the second half as the Warriors nearly rallied back from 35-7 down.
Linebacker Ridge Gibson will help anchor the Walton defense, and Shaw is keenly aware of him. Gibson leads the Raiders with 28 tackles, including three for loss.
Applying pressure to Ashley is also part of the game plan, with Kyle Whittaker having recorded a team-high two sacks.
The Walton secondary, led by Chad Clay, will have to track down Cherokee receivers Blace Brown and Brittain Brown, who had a combined 271 receiving yards against Lassiter.
“They play aggressive in the secondary and are physical up front,” Shaw said. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
Cherokee’s primary concern at the moment isn’t Walton’s defense or trying to stop running back K.K. Brooks, who rushed for 120 yards against Woodstock.
It’s the special teams.
A successful extra point could have put Cherokee’s game against Lassiter into overtime. The Warriors also had one of their punts blocked, and they failed to recover a second-half kickoff.
“Our special teams was a disaster,” Shaw said. “We spent a lot of time focusing on that aspect of the game.”