Walton 30, Marietta 17

After losing to the Blue Devils  in each of his first two attempts as Walton’s head coach, Daniel Brunner finally has his victory over local rival Marietta.

“Well, coming over here, it’s just a hard place to play,” said Brunner. “The environment is phenomenal. There’s a great crowd and it’s tight quarters and calls aren’t always going to go your way and you have got to overcome it. So, again, this is one of the greatest places to play in the state of Georgia so to come over here and get a win is outstanding.”

Entering the game, Brunner focused on limiting Walton’s penalty yards and being disciplined.

“Well, we did better, we did better,” he said. “Our boys just fought through adversity and they found a way. They just kept battling”

The game was much closer than the score would suggest and with 2:10 left in the third quarter, Walton was nursing a 20-17 lead before a short touchdown run from quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski gave the Raiders a 10-point advantage. A 38-yard field goal from Alex Rupp put the game away.

“We just just focused on the next play,” Brunner said. “It paid dividends for us. Jeremy (Hecklinski) is always going to make the next play. He made some mistakes and I know he would like to have some of those back. But I don’t worry about him. We got down here and we had to make a throw and we made it. I never have fear putting the ball in his hands.”

Walton led 17-10 at the half and entering the third quarter, the Raiders got into the Marietta red zone on a pass from Hecklinski to Kaeden Gilstrap but Marietta held the Raiders to a field goal from Alex Rupp to make it a 20-10 game.

“I said it earlier, I don’t think Marietta’s record indicated how good of a team they are,” Brunner said.

Marietta led early on a 27-yard field goal from Ben Parrott early in the first quarter, but Walton kicker Alex Rupp – who made three field goals on the night – tied the game on a 38-yard field goal minutes later. Hecklinski gave the Raiders the 10-3  lead on a 15-yard pass to Wyatt Sonderman with less than a minute left in the first quarter. Hecklinski passed to Makari Bodiford  for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:24 left in the second quarter to give Walton a 17-3 lead.

Following a pass-interference call on the Walton defensive secondary, Marietta got back into the game 17-10 with a 21-yard pass from McCravy to Christain Mathis on a perfect jump-ball pass in the left corner of the endzone.

On the next play following an interception from Walton defender Ayden Jackson, Marietta safety Isaiah Sanders intercepted a Hecklinski pass with 7:06 in the third quarter and returned it for a touchdown to cut into the lead 20-17 but Marietta could muster no more offensive production.

“Jackson is one of the best players in the state of Georgia,” Brunner said. “He can play on both sides of the ball and do it better than most. He had two huge interceptions that really flipped the game.”

Marietta defeated Walton 36-24 in 2020 and 42-14 last season.