It’s the fourth-quarter that leaves a sour taste.
The Bearcats scored seemingly at will in the final quarter, outscoring Walker 28-0 in route to a 42-14 victory in the season opener back in August.
“We had players coming out with cramps. We weren’t in good shape. We had kids starting that I don’t think were ready for the atmosphere yet,” said Mansell, a junior linebacker and team leader on defense.
Walker gets a chance at redemption tonight. The teams meet at 7 p.m. at Walker’s Ki-Ro Gambrell Stadium with a spot in the state quarterfinals on the line.
Walker wins over Cullman have been rare in recent years. The Bearcats have won seven of the last eight meetings. The Vikings still lead the series 33-32-2.
“All week I’ve been thinking about this game. I just want to get back at them so bad,” Mansell said. “We are a totally different team than we were in the first week. Our freshmen and sophomores have grown up. They are ready to play. They understand how big this game is to our team. We want to go to the third round. It’s been a while since Walker’s been that far.”
The 42 points allowed by Walker in the first meeting against Cullman were the most the Vikings have given up in the series since 1971 and the most allowed by Walker since a 48-33 loss to Oxford in the opening round of the 2004 playoffs. Cullman also owns the three highest point totals in coach John Holladay’s six-year tenure at Walker.
Mansell and crew have excelled on the defensive side of the ball since the Cullman game. Mansell leads the team with 135 tackles. He had 12 against the Bearcats.
Since the season-opening loss, Walker has allowed just 130 points over the last 10 games, an average of 13 points per game.
Walker opened the playoffs with a 30-7 rout of Central-Tuscaloosa. The Vikings were led by their rushing attack, which picked up 301 yards and all four touchdowns. The Vikings’ defense held Central to just 67 rushing yards and 257 total yards.
Cullman (9-2) hammered Arab 49-14 in its first-round matchup. The Bearcats have lost in the second round of the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Walker hopes to extend that streak.
“We are so excited,” Mansell said. “You can tell it in their eyes, they are ready to play. Everybody is focused and zoned in. It would mean everything to win this game. Cullman is the game Walker always looks forward to.”