With one team playoff-bound and the other wrapping up its season, motivation will be a crucial factor Friday as Woodstock travels to Walton.
Walton (5-4, 3-1) is coming off a comeback victory over Cherokee which put the Raiders in position to claim the Region 4AAAAAAA title. The Raiders would win the region with a win over Woodstock, along with an Etowah win over Roswell.
“If we win, we’ll get a home playoff game, and that’s what we’re focused on,” Walton coach Daniel Brunner said. “Last week was a huge confidence-builder for our guys because Cherokee is a really good team, and we’re just working this week to build on that confidence.”
Walton ran the ball 51 times last week, with Kenny Djaha and K.D. Stokes receiving the bulk of the workload. The duo has combined for 1,114 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground this season, and containing them will likely be a key to victory for Woodstock (2-7, 1-3).
Woodstock’s leading tacklers, Michael Chelena and Andrew Bartolero, will lead that effort, but Bartolero has also been one the Wolverines' best offensive players of late as well. The senior rushed for more than 200 yards against Lassiter two weeks ago, and although starting tailbacks V’ontae Hampton and Willie Grier should be healthy, Bartolero could be expected to see a few touches on offense as well.
The Walton defense recorded three interceptions last week, but it also escaped with Cherokee dropping several long passes that could have affected the outcome. The Raiders’ secondary will need to be ready again facing a Woodstock team that spreads the ball around through the air.
“Coach (Brent) Budde scares you to death with that vertical passing game and the way they use the field,” Brunner said. “(Woodstock has) been in every game, and I think they have some really talented pieces over there. They kept Cherokee from scoring, and that’s a really good offense to keep off the board. Like I’ve been saying all year, the parity within the region is pretty tough.”
Woodstock lost 42-16 to Roswell last week, but its games against Etowah and Cherokee both came down to the final minutes in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines have been on the wrong end of several one-score games this season and have the pieces to threaten Walton on the road.
In terms of motivation, Budde said there is always something to play for.
“If you play sports and you’re a competitor, I don’t care if its a pickup game of basketball or a playoff football game -- I don’t see how you can give anything but your best,” Budde said. “For the seniors, it may be the last football game they ever get a chance to play in, but we’ll go out there to win for all the reasons we do every week.”