Background. Both teams entered the game 13-0, with Buford working on a 43-game winning streak. Decatur prior to this year has largely been viewed as a football also-ran. The two teams featured eight or nine players being recruited by D-1 schools, a surprisingly high number for a Class AA game.
The game. In the first half, not surprisingly, Decatur stacked the line with six linemen backed by two linebackers and more often than not a safety joining in. For the most part, the Decatur containment strategy was successful at least in terms of keeping Darius Walker from recording his usual gaudy numbers (155 yards per game, 9.9 yards per carry, and more than 3 TDs per game). However, Decatur would pay dearly for devoting so much attention to Walker. Buford ran Walker as a decoy with positive results: a WR reverse for a touchdown, a ball fake to Walker and throw to the lead fullback for 35 yards, a 35-yard TD pass off a fake to Walker, and another shorter scoring throw off of similar play action.
At the half, Buford led Decatur 28-6.
In the second half, it was more of the same although Decatur scored on the first play of the half. Decatur continued to stack the box to try and contain Walker with similar statistical success. Walker ran 16 times for 85 yards and one TD (unofficially 31 carries, 177 yards, one TD for the game). The Decatur defense by day's end was exhausted from chasing Walker et al. By the fourth quarter, many of Decatur's defensive linemen couldn't get into a three-point stance. Their exhaustion is a tribute to how well Buford and its star played and how physical the play was all game. At game's end Walker commented "I'm tired" -- again not surprising since he's only played in one other fourth quarter all year.
Final score -- Buford 42, Decatur 13.
A few comments. Despite his speed and quickness, Walker's runs are typically between the tackles and in this game the middle was pretty clogged. Decatur's defensive line went 260, 325, 240, 245 and 270 -- outweighing Buford's offensive line by about 60 pounds per man. One of Decatur's DL is being recruited by Miami (FL) and another will be a good D-1 prospect next year.
Walker's running style is closer to a Emmitt Smith than a Barry Sanders (for Stanford fans think Anthony Bookman-like speed with Mike Mitchell-like strength). As an announcer mentioned, "Walker doesn't tip-toe into the hole like T.J. Duckett." Walker hits the hole quickly and decisively, and the first man rarely brings him down. He rarely takes square hits, and more often than not he delivers the bigger blow. This trait might stem from Walker's starting out as a nose tackle like his father, Jimmy Walker, an all-SEC NT at Arkansas.
Dexter Wood, Walker's head coach, had some interesting things to say about his star running back. Wood started with the qualities that make Walker a great player -- "vision, size, and breakaway speed" -- but he went on to talk about what makes Walker special -- "his family, his character, high morals and leadership to the team and the school." Walker sounds to me like a great fit and addition to The Farm.
A few underclassmen to watch. Decatur junior DT Chaz Wright -- 6'4" and 325. 100 plus tackles this year with roughly 20 tackles for a loss... Decatur sophomore CB/WR Antoine Mitchell -- 6'1" and 185. He took the 15-yard out 75 yards for a score to start the second half... Decatur junior RB Johnny Hambrick -- 5'7" and 160. Ran for close to 2,000 yards this year. Good speed and tough despite stature; he has problems holding onto the ball though... Buford junior DE/OLB Thor Merrow -- 6'2" and 220. Agile with very good closing speed. Father played for the Falcons... Buford junior CB/S Jakair Millsap -- 5'11" and 170. Good coverage skills and a solid/big hitter for his size.
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