By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton Braves pulled a huge upset in their final game of the 2012 season as senior Andrew Shipman’s 19-yard field goal on the final play of the first overtime period handed the home team a 17-14 victory over District 1, Class 4A champion East Gadsden.
The Jaguars, who entered the contest 2-0 in district play and not having allowed any points in their district victories against Marianna and Taylor County, found the going tough against a determined Walton football team playing at home on Senior Night.
Walton was on the march on their opening possession of the game when Daiquan Brown took his lone carry on the night and fumbled the football away as he was injured while being tackled by several East Gadsden defenders to end the Braves first scoring threat.
The two teams settled into a defensive battle with Walton’s first big break coming when Raheem Phillips picked off an errant pass by East Gadsden quarterback Traveze Robinson and returned it 13 yards to the Jaguars 28-yard line. Four plays later Walton was on the scoreboard as junior running back Amos Williams swept in from five yards out to give the home team a 6-0 lead with 6:12 to go in the first half.
East Gadsden responded with a 78-yard drive that used eight plays to take a 7-6 lead as Robinson connected with receiver Janorriss Cunningham on a 16-yard pass with 3:18 remaining in the first half.
The game remained a one-point contest until the third quarter when senior defensive back Ken Randolph read Robinson’s intentions of dumping the football off to a receiver on a screen pass and jumped the route, returning the pigskin 26 yards for a touchdown and a 12-7 lead. Williams followed up with a key 2-point conversion run to give the Braves a 14-7 advantage at the 5:04 mark.
East Gadsden answered by driving into Walton territory on their next three possessions with the Braves stopping them on downs the first two times. Robinson, however, connected with Cunningham again, this time on a fourth and short toss that Cunningham used to break free and streak down the sidelines in front of his coaching staff for a 20-yard score with just 3:32 remaining in the game. Senior kicker Pedro Popoca drilled the extra point and the contest was knotted at 14-all.
Neither team could put any more points on the scoreboard and the game moved to overtime with East Gadsden going on offense first, attempting to punch in a score heading towards the south endzone at Everette Yates Memorial Stadium.
Cunningham, who took over at quarterback for Robinson during the overtime series, fumbled a snap from the shotgun formation with the Jaguars at Walton’s 4-yard line and was swarmed by Braves defenders on the key third down play, forcing Popoca onto the field for a go-ahead 24-yard field goal on fourth down. Popoca then proceeded to mis-hit the football, drilling the kick into the back of one of his offensive lineman to end the team’s chance at putting points on the scoreboard.
Walton took their turn on offense from the 10-yard line and Williams ran for a yard on first down. Diontre Pate followed with a 5-yard run and quarterback Christian Adams 2-yard keeper left the Braves at the 2-yard line on fourth down. Walton head football coach Jimmy Ray Stephens burned a timeout and summoned kicker Andrew Shipman who promptly drilled a 19-yard field goal to set off the celebration as Walton ended the season with a 4-6 mark by defeating the heavily-favored East Gadsden(7-2) squad.
Williams led the Braves with 116 yards on the ground as Walton overcame four turnovers to capture the win.
Walton’s defense stopped the Jaguars on 5-of-8 fourth down conversion attempts, including one at the 5-yard line of the Braves at the start of the second half after Williams fumbled the kickoff away to East Gadsden.