Enter Kevin Clay.
The Vikings’ running back delivered the spark Walker was missing.
With Walker facing a second and long from its own 19-yard line, Clay went through a huge opening and got past a diving defender for an 81-yard score that propelled the Vikings to a 30-7 first-round playoff victory over Central Tuscaloosa Friday night.
“We were up and down,” Walker coach John Holladay said. “It wasn’t very pretty, but it really doesn’t matter. We won a playoff game and we get to play another one. We’re excited about that.”
Clay’s second-quarter touchdown, which put Walker up 10-0, set the tone for the rest of the game as the Vikings pounded their way to 301 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against the Falcons.
Michael Bridges, Tyler Phillips and Saige Harding also added rushing touchdowns and Walker advanced to the second round where it will face a familiar foe — Cullman.
The Bearcats (9-2) hammered Arab 49-14 and will make the trip to Ki-Ro Gambrell Field next week. The teams played in the season opener this year with the Bearcats scoring 28 fourth-quarter points in a 42-14 rout. Cullman has won seven of the last eight meetings.
“It’s going to be a big game,” Holladay said.
On Friday, Walker’s first-quarter offensive possessions were marred by penalties and sacks. The Vikings got as close as the 5-yard line in the opening minutes only to lose 10 yards due to penalties. Walker still came away with points following Joseph Pedraza’s 32-yard field goal.
After two three-and-outs and an interception, Walker’s luck changed after Clay’s long touchdown run.
“They did some things we had to adjust to. They were blitzing us and they were putting everybody at the line,” Holladay said. “What’s going to happen when you blitz is, they are going to get some big plays and we are going to get some big plays. We finally did. Clay started it for us. After that we broke it open. The coaches made some good adjustments.”
On the Vikings’ possession following Clay’s score, the team went right back to work with Bridges breaking free for a 33-yard run and quarterback Bryant Atkins connecting on passes of 19 and 17 yards to give Walker the ball inside the 10 yard line. From there, Phillips went in from six yards out to put the Vikings up 17-0 with 1:28 left in the second quarter.
Walker (8-3) closed the half with back-to-back sacks from Todd Homan and Jaiquan Crook.
The Falcons (6-5) used a blocked field goal and 35 yards worth of penalties to get on the scoreboard in the third quarter. Jamel Stewart blocked the field goal giving Central the ball. Central used two 15-yard penalties to then get the ball at the Walker 20-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Vincent Davis connected with Kalias Robertson for a 15-yard touchdown to cut the Vikings’ lead to 17-7.
Whatever momentum Central had, Walker snatched back.
Bridges followed with a 26-yard run that set up his 35-yard touchdown run as Walker pushed its lead to 23-7 with 5:16 left in the quarter.
Central didn’t threaten again.
Walker’s reserves added the last score — a Harding 4-yard touchdown run — with 1:02 left in the game. John Crump made the final extra point.
Bridges led the Vikings’ ground attack, rushing for 125 yards and a score on 15 carries. Clay had 107 yards and a touchdown on seven carries while Phillips had 94 yards and a score on 12 carries. Atkins, who missed a series in the third quarter after an knee injury, finished 3 of 6 passing for 54 yards with an interception. Phillips caught two passes for 36 yards.
Defensively, Jeb Cowen blocked a punt and had an interceptions while Austin Mansell, Jamison Lane and Homan each had seven tackles.
Walker was penalized 11 times for 85 yards.
For Central, Davis completed 17 of 35 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception and he also rushed 18 times for 71 yards.