FALKNER - In last season's Joe Bowl, it was Falkner that lit up the scoreboard, hanging 50 points in their win over rival Walnut. A key member of that offensive explosion was T.J. Colom, who totaled 256 yards and two receiving touchdowns for the Eagles.
This year, Colom wore a red helmet with a chrome 'W' on the side and was integral part of Walnut's 38-6 blowout victory of his former teammates of Falkner. Colom took the jet sweep on the first play of the game 63 yards to the endzone, and served as a signal of what was to come for the rest of the game.
"We were very excited to get the win, especially to erase the memory of last week's game," said Walnut head coach John Meeks. "I never get too fired up about a win. We've got some stuff that we've got to work on up front, as you can see by the penetration we gave up in the a-gaps tonight. But as far as our skill guys, they really showed out tonight."
With the 6-0 lead, Walnut added to their lead while facing fourth and long. Quarterback Cade Hunt found Colom in the back of the endzone for the 21-yard strike and the 12-0 lead. Hunt's night would only get better from there.
Falkner was able to answer on their next drive following a 66-yard kickoff return by Jordan Peterson that set up the Eagles' offense on the Wildcat nine-yard line. Two plays later, Zion Grizzard punched it in for the Eagles' lone score of the game with 1:18 to play in the first quarter.
Following Grizzard's score, Colom took the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown that was eventually called back for an illegal block in the back, but still set the Wildcats to start their third drive of the game on the Falkner 30. After a T.J. Luellen touchdown was called back for holding on third down, Hunt tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chase Rogers for the 18-6 lead with 10:10 left in the second quarter. Hunt threw his third touchdown of the night to R.G. Cabriana for 15 yards on a fourth down play that gave Walnut the 26-6 halftime advantage.
In the second half, a pair of miscues cost the Eagles any chance of making the game competitive. Setting up to punt, the snap sailed over the head of punter Ryan Caviness and he was forced to fall on the loose ball at his own two-yard line, where Luellen crossed the goal line on the next play. On the Eagles' next drive, James Hinson scooped up the Falkner fumble and scored a 23-yard touchdown that proved to be the final score with 5:14 left in the third quarter.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a lot with penalties, which is on me, I should have them prepared," said Falkner head coach Ty Priest. "At the same time, our starting center is dealing with an injury and our backup is doing the best he can. It's just some miscommunication and some inexperience that caused us to have some bad snaps. If we can fix that, I think we can move the ball better than we did tonight."
As impressive as the Walnut offense was, their defense was able to shine with some unexpected contributors due to the injury bug that has hit the team early in the season. The Wildcat defense held Falkner to just 27 passing yards and 37 yards rushing while forcing two turnovers.
"We just keep getting a few people hurt. I think if we can get everybody healthy and on the same page I think we can get rolling," claimed Meeks. "Right now, it's just been a struggle and we've bounced a few kids around and played a few that we weren't expecting to play this early but they've been really good. Aaron Cabriana, A.J. Crum, Cole Devore, C.J. Adams, Ryder Hughes. We had some guys that I wasn't expecting to be on the field much and they played great defense all night long. I'm very proud of them."
Both teams face Alcorn Central in their next game but the Eagles will have an extra week to prepare for them with their upcoming bye week. The Bears are 2-0 on the season following their 35-28 win over Middleton (TN) last Friday. The Wildcats travel to Alcorn Central on Friday for the 7 p.m. kickoff.