For the Walker Vikings, it’s do or die time.
With both Walker and the Gardendale Rockets heading into tonight’s showdown at Ki-Ro Gambrell Stadium notched at 1-2 in the Class 6A, Region 6 standings, a victory ensures a continued opportunity to vie for one of the four playoff spots.
A loss would make clinching a postseason berth nearly impossible.
Both teams enter the contest on different paths since their meeting last season in the second round of the playoffs.
The Vikings started the year at 1-3, but have earned two victories to bring a winning streak into the game. In contrast, the Rockets opened the season at a perfect 4-0 but have lost their last three games.
Despite the differences the teams have experienced prior to the matchup, Walker head coach Heath Brunner knows both programs will be expecting each other’s best.
“No one wants to come out of the game with a loss, as it’s going to make the playoff race so much more difficult,” Brunner said. “Our guys have played very well in the past two weeks and I’m proud of them for what I’ve seen, but the job is far from over. They know this is an extremely important game.”
With running back Ken Holiday out this week due to injury, the Vikings will look to a three-man tandem of Jamal Allen, Dylan Norris and Kayden Shelton and their offensive line to move the ball on the ground and take the pressure off quarterback Michael Crear.
“Gardendale’s front seven is really good. We’re fairly small on our offensive line at certain positions, so the matchup there worries me to a degree. I know our guys will get after it effort-wise, but in terms of shear size and strength, Gardendale will win some battles,” Brunner said. “Hopefully that won’t happen early in the game — but they also have two of the best linebackers that I’ve ever coached against behind the line. Those guys come quickly, so you have to slow them down with a run-pass option or misdirection plays. If we can’t do that, it’s going to be a long night. Our hope is to create some turnovers and keep their guys on the field through long drives.”
Walker holds an 8-5 series edge between the two teams, with Gardendale winning last year’s playoff meeting, 48-28.
The game will be broadcast on WJLX 101.5 with a 7 p.m. kick.
Walker plays Carver on the road next Thursday.