Carrollton 52, Walton 27

The Carrollton offense was forced to punt on the opening possession of the game Friday, but it wouldn’t be stopped again.

The Trojans scored on eight consecutive possessions, seven of them touchdowns, and pulled away from Walton in the second half for a 52-27 victory in the Class 7A quarterfinals at Grisham Stadium in Carrollton.

Fourth-ranked Carrollton (13-0) advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive season but first since moving into the highest classification this year. The Trojans will be on the road next week against second-ranked Colquitt County (13-0), which defeated North Gwinnett 52-17 Friday night. Colquitt County’s coach, Sean Calhoun, was the head coach at Carrollton from 2016 to 2020.

Sixth-ranked Walton, the runner-up in Region 5, finished the season 10-3.

“I’m super proud of our guys,” Carrollton coach Joey King said. “We executed, and we said from the get-go that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. It doesn’t matter what happens early, we’ve got to stay the course, and I thought we did that in all three phases.

Bryce Hicks did most of the damage for the Trojans. The junior running back scored five touchdowns (three rushing, two receiving) and had 89 yards rushing on 19 carries as well as 64 yards receiving on four catches.

Hicks also made one of the game’s biggest defensive plays, intercepting a pass at the Carrollton 31-yard line with 58 seconds remaining in the first half that led to his 1-yard touchdown run 52 seconds later that gave the Trojans the lead for good at 28-21.

Up to that point, the teams had traded touchdowns on six consecutive possessions, with each score either tying the game or changing the lead.

“I just can’t say enough about him,” King said of Hicks. “I just told those guys on the TV that he’d probably play offensive line if we let him. He was all over the field tonight, and he does a great job week in and week out.”

Carrollton quickly added to the lead when Walton fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter and the Trojans recovered at the Walton 13. Three plays later, freshman quarterback Julian “Ju Ju” Lewis threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordan White for a 35-21 lead. The Raiders cut it to 35-27 with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Hecklinski to Hunter Teal about four minutes later, but Carrollton scored the game’s final 17 points.

The only other possession in which Carrollton didn’t score was its last one, which ended at the Walton 19-yard line when time ran out.

Hicks wasn’t the only Carrollton player with big offensive numbers. Lewis was 22-of-32 passing for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Caleb Odom had 120 yards and a touchdown on five catches, White had seven catches for 58 yards, and Seth Childers had 69 yards on three catches.

Lewis and Hecklinski were the two leading passers in 7A during the regular season, Hecklinski with 2,692 yards and Lewis with 2,599.

Hecklinski was hot in the first half, completing his first 11 passes and finishing the first two quarters 11-of-13 for 159 yards and a touchdown. However, he was just 4-for-14 in the second half and finished the game with 194 yards. Makari Bodiford led Walton in rushing with 113 yards on 21 carries, and Ayden Jackson had 68 receiving yards and a touchdown on three catches.

Walton - 6-15-6-0 - 27

Carrollton - 7-21-14-10 - 52

First quarter

W - Jeremy Hecklinski 2 run (run failed), 4:05

C - Bryce Hicks 1 run (Jacob Russell kick), 0:00

Second quarter

W - Matthew Traynor 4 run (Sebastian Banai kick), 7:07

C - Hicks 32 pass from Julian Lewis (Russell kick), 5:36

W - Ayden Jackson 65 pass from Hecklinski (Jake Thorner pass from Kaeden Gilstrap), 5:26

C - Caleb Odom 29 pass from Lewis (Russell kick), 3:23

C - Hicks 1 run (Russell kick), 0:06

Third quarter

C - Jordan White 11 pass from Lewis (Russell kick), 10:34

W - Hunter Teal 3 pass from Hecklinski (kick failed), 6:27

C - Hicks 12 pass from Lewis (Russell kick), 4:49

Fourth quarter

C - Hicks 7 run (Russell kick), 11:55

C - Freddy Perez 26 field goal, 5:55