It wasn’t the result Walker High coach Chad Mahaffey was after.
But in the year 2020, sometimes success can be measured in the amount of games played.
At least that’s how Mahaffey’s Wildcats felt after Wednesday’s 61-7 road loss to the defending Division II state champion St. Thomas More Cougars.
“I knew they had a strong team coming into it, but we wanted a chance to compete against a good team like that,” Mahaffey said. “It obviously didn’t go very well for us, but I still think there are some things that could be positive for us if we use it the right way this season.
“With the uncertainty of things, I think it’s important for these kids to get as many opportunities to play as we can. Even in the score, it’s better for us to have played a quality opponent than to have not gotten an opportunity to play.”
Walker’s defense had quite a chore in this one. The Wildcats didn’t even know they were playing the powerhouse Cougars’ offense until “about 1 p.m.” Tuesday afternoon.
“Everybody had the same amount of time to prepare and we didn’t a good job,” Mahaffey said. “They are a great team, a great program and they played better and coached better. That’s really all there is to say.”
St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower was extremely thankful to Walker for making the trip.
“I’m really grateful,” he said. “I know it was hard for them, but we got to play and there are a lot of people that didn’t get to play. I really appreciate Chad bringing his group over here. I wish it would have been a little more even for them, but I really appreciate them making the effort.
“I’m afraid this might not the only time this year. I’m afraid there could be other teams calling in the middle of the week, saying they can’t play. Every game is that much more precious. We lost two already. For these seniors, they don’t get another shot. That’s why every time we can hit the field, we’re going to try to do it.”
Once the game was under way, Hightower’s Cougars didn’t waste much time taking over.
For instance, before the Cougars’ third offensive possession was over, junior quarterback Walker Howard already had over 200 yards passing and wide receiver Jack Bech already had two touchdowns.
“Our kids came ready to play and I thought our execution was good,” Hightower said. “We got a couple special guys, more than a couple probably. It makes it hard. Jack and Walker are spectacular, but we’ve got some other guys that it doesn’t allow you to just throw your whole defense to one side of the field.”
Howard connected with Bech for 45 on the game’s second play to set up Tobin Thevenot’s 5-yard TD run. Then he hit Jaxon Moncla on a 75-yard touchdown pass.
Bech, a Vanderbilt commitment, then followed a 57-yard punt return with a 44-yard TD reception from Howard.
“They’re both pretty fun,” Bech said. “Punt return, there’s a lot going on. It can kind of change the emotions of the game, so being able to make big plays like that on special teams is fun.
“You know, if we’re down, it picks everybody back up and gets us excited.
Tonight, we were never down, but it kind of amped up the mood a little bit.”
Bech finished the game with two catches for 89 yards.
Howard, meanwhile, was 10-of-13 passing for 289 yards and four touchdowns – all in the first half.
Walker’s lone touchdown came early in the second period when Brian Thomas turned a short connection into a 70-yard touchdown catch to trim STM’s lead to 26-7 with 10:12 left until halftime.
The Wildcats utilized a two-quarterback system throughout the game. Thor Debetaz was 7-of-13 passing for 107 yards and a touchdown, while Christian Johnson hit on 9 of 17 passes for 80 yards.
“Just inconsistent,” Mahaffey said of the offense. “Both of them didn’t play any level of football last year, so they’re inexperienced and having to learn by fire. We played Catholic in jamboree, who is really good, and then these guys. I think they did some good things, but as a whole collectively offensively we weren’t great.”
Walker’s running game was limited to 38 yards, while throwing for 187 yards.
The Cougars countered with 197 yards rushing and 342 passing.
“(STM offensive coordinator) Shane (Savoie) and them have been doing it a long time,” Mahaffey said. “They’re really sharp. I’ve have experience with them before, so I’m not surprised knowing what we were getting into. I just hoped for us to play better.”