Instead, players and coaches shared hugs and tears on the field following a 9-3 victory over the Hueytown Golden Gophers in the season finale.
The game was a bitter-sweet finish to a season that included the school’s second consecutive region championship, but also included a postseason ban by the AHSAA due to a fight on the field involving coaches following a season-opening loss to Cullman.
Despite losing their coach after Game 1, Walker rallied around interim coach Heath Brunner and the coaching staff, closing the season by winning eight of their last nine games.
“From Aug. 30 to now, these guys have grown up. They will be better men for going through a circumstance like this and not letting it define them,” Brunner said. “You don’t really want to think about next week because you want to live for right now. I hate it for these kids because we still haven’t played our best game.”
Walker (8-2) had trouble moving the ball on Friday night, but Hueytown had more difficulty.
Walker’s defense stuffed the Golden Gophers time and time again with the game on the line.
Hueytown hit a 42-yard pass to the Walker 11-yard line on the first play of the third quarter.
The Golden Gophers (3-7) got as close the 7-yard line before Walker forced a Hueytown fumble. The Vikings came up with the loss ball to thwart the Golden Gophers’ scoring opportunity.
On Hueytown’s final possession, Jaiquan Crook came through with a sack and Kevin Clay wrapped up the win for Walker, picking off a pass on a 4th-down play with just under two minutes remaining.
Austin Mansell led the Vikings with 14 tackles, Crook added 10 and Sawyer Smith had nine.
“We put the game on our defense’s back,” Brunner said. “We’ve got great leadership on that side of the ball. They’ve carried us all year. Coach (Scott) Mansell and those guys do a great job.”
The Vikings did all their scoring in the first quarter. Walker went 61 yards on its first drive for a touchdown.
On a 4th-and-goal play at the Hueytown 1-yard line, Walker fumbled the ball with Brady Pugh recovering in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked giving the Vikings a 6-0 lead with 5:21 left in the quarter.
Walker’s next possession also resulted in points with Ran Crump connecting on a 32-yard field goal as the Vikings pushed their lead to 9-0 at the 2:21 mark.
That would be more than enough offense for the Walker defense.
Hueytown’s only points came on a 35-yard field goal by William Nelson with 55 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Vikings’ held Hueytown to just 112 yards of offense.
Hueytown had just two plays that went for more than 10 yards and the Golden Gophers gained just 18 yards on three fourth-quarter possessions.
Offensively, Joe Bell led the Walker charge, rushing 17 times for 127 yards and Marlon Oliver had 54 yards on 13 carries.
As a team, Walker picked up 210 yards with 201 coming on the ground.
With the state playoffs starting next week, Brunner can only wonder what the Vikings could have accomplished.
“The what-if factor will always be around,” he said. “These guys had a goal in mind to be region champs. We did that. Finishing 8-2 is just icing on the cake.”