Playoffs Round One

Valiants' playmakers shine in playoff win against Spartans

Valwood head coach Ashley Henderson called Friday's 49-7 blowout playoff win against Burke Academy a "total team effort."

The Valiants took the Spartans' best shot in the first quarter but recovered to score 42 unanswered points to pull away into the second round behind their top playmakers––Caleb Burns, Cam Walker, J.D. Scurry and Sam Martin.

BURNS' BRILLIANCE

Burns delivered another stellar performance against Burke, completing 13 of 19 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns. Burns also had a 35-yard run on a keeper that set up an 8-yard connection with Walker to put Valwood ahead 20-7 with 5:37 left in the second quarter.

"Our motor's running, we were running really hard," Burns said of the team's effort. "Our guys out wide––Cam, J.D. did an excellent job. We were able to take some stuff (Burke) was giving us. It helps when you've got playmakers outside."

Henderson praised the offensive line for keeping Burns protected throughout as Burns was only sacked twice on the night and had already thrown his third touchdown pass of the game before the Spartans got to him late in the third quarter.

"(Pass protection) was huge," Burns said. "It really starts up there with those guys. They control what happens––my success is off of their success. Whatever I do, it's because of them. Schematically, them calling out defenses, calling out blitzes (is big). I try to do a good job, Ashton Moorman, our center, does a great job doing that and we really just had a good team win.

For the season, Burns is completing over 70 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,775 yards. With three more touchdowns on Friday, Burns has 26 passing touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions. Burns understands that not only is he playing his best, but the team looks to be approaching its peak when the stakes are higher.

"I think it's really just the atmosphere that's keeping me excited," Burns said. "All the guys, we're waking up on Monday and we're saying, 'it's practice time, it's time to go to work'. I think it really helps that we've got guys that are committed, we've got guys that want to win and we're doing great right now. Practices are going great and we're finishing games."

WALKER'S WAY

Reigning Region 3-3A Player of the Year Walker did a little bit of everything against the Spartans. Walker lined up at wide receiver, cornerback and filled in for the injured Colby Thomas at running back.

As a receiver, Walker caught five balls for 69 yards with two touchdowns. At corner, Walker picked off Spartans quarterback Eason Waters to ignite a seven-play, 50-yard scoring drive to put the Valiants up by 22 points with under a minute to before halftime. In place of Thomas in the back field, Walker carried the ball four times for 13 yards.

One of the Valiants' biggest plays came when Burns found Walker in the end zone for an over-the-shoulder basket catch to put the Valiants up 36-7 in the third quarter.

Burns acknowledged Walker's dynamic impact for the Valiants all over the field as a senior.

"Cam is a guy that's been here since the 10th grade, he knows the offense very well," Burns said. "He can run the ball, flat out––you put the ball in Cam Walker's hands, he's gonna make some magic happen and he did that. We ran a lot of good run plays for him, we got him some more touches with Colby out and he did a great job at running back."

SCURRY GETS SCUFFED

Despite leaving the game with an apparent leg injury late in the third quarter, Scurry rebounded from a few dropped passes early in the game to finish with five catches for 74 yards––the biggest grab coming on a 31-yard toss from Burns that set up Walker's score on the ensuing play. 

Though Scurry was injured on the play, Burns thinks Scurry will be good to go for next week's matchup against John Milledge Academy. If Scurry is slowed by the injury, Burns says, it's up to the next man in line to step up.

"I talked to our trainer after the game and she said it was just a scuff on the knee," Burns said. "I think he'll be good for the next game but, if not, next man up. I love J.D., love him as a brother. He's a heck of a ball player but, you know, next man up."

MARTIN CHIPS IN

Valwood running back/linebacker Martin has proven himself to be one of the Valiants' most reliable and invaluable weapons over the past two seasons. Against the Spartans, Martin brought his bulldog physicality on the defensive end, making multiple tackles for losses. On the offensive end, Martin factored in the Valiants' running game with three carries for 22 yards and a touchdown while also catching a 40-yard first-quarter touchdown pass from Burns for the first score of the game.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

The Valiants battle the John Milledge Academy Trojans (10-1) in the second round of the GISA state playoffs next Friday––a rematch of last year's state semifinal game that saw the Trojans knock off the Valiants 20-13. The Trojans went on to shut out Gatewood 17-0 for the state championship and finishing with a perfect 15-0 record.