By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Based on the 42-14 final score, Cullman’s Week 1 victory at home against Walker appeared to be a piece of cake.
But as coach Mark Britton remembers, the Bearcats and Vikings were tied 14-14 at the end of the third quarter before using four touchdowns in the last 12 minutes to pull away for good.
As the game progressed on that miserably balmy August night, Walker’s players began to show signs of fatigue, while Britton’s bunch, fresh off an intense summer workout program, still had plenty of fuel left in its tank to take over at the end.
Being more prepared physically was the difference in the season-opener, but Cullman’s coach doesn’t think it will be as much of a factor this Friday when the Bearcats head to Walker for a second-round contest.
“I think Walker will be in better shape this time,” Britton said. “We were able to play a few more guys than they were in the heat, but now they’ve played their way into football shape, so that’s really not an advantage we once had.”
The Vikings are a very familiar foe for the Bearcats. The two teams have played 67 times since 1920, with Walker holding a slight 33-32-2 advantage.
This will be the third postseason meeting for the rivals. The Vikings came out on top 28-24 in the opening round of the 2001 playoffs, but Cullman paid back the favor with a 38-28 third-round triumph in 2008.
Between all those games and this year’s regular season kickoff, coming up with new looks that the opponent hasn’t seen won’t be easy for either coaching staff.
“It’s always hard because you throw a lot of your best plays and a lot of your best matchups against them,” Britton said. “Obviously they’ll have film on that first game, as will we, so we’ll see how things progressed throughout the year.”
Walker rebounded from its loss to the Bearcats with an undefeated record in region play. Its only other losses came against Russellville in Week 5 and 6A Hueytown in the regular season finale.
The Vikings have been without the services of junior quarterback Blake Wilkes since he broke his thumb against the Golden Tigers, leaving Bryant Atkins to take over behind center. Britton said the lefty freshman has done a “super job” in Wilkes’ absence.
The coach is certainly qualified to talk about quarterbacks who are “super” because that would be a pretty accurate descriptor for his own, Zac Crocker. The senior signal-caller has completed 203 of his 300 attempts this year for 2,134 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Houston Turner has been Crocker’s most popular target with 56 receptions, 647 yards and 12 touchdowns, but Mason Jones, Wesley Hendrix and Troy Forrest all have more than 40 catches and 350 yards. Forrest has seven scoring receptions, Jones has four and Hendrix has two.
Walker’s Quadrekas Key, who returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown versus Cullman in Week 1, is doubtful for Friday’s game. He was relegated to the sideline with an injury in Round 1 against Central Tuscaloosa.
If Cullman beats Walker, it will advance to the third round to play the winner of Friday’s Russellville-McAdory game. The Bearcats would host Russellville but would have to stay on the road if McAdory wins.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.