Big Walnut scores early, holds off host Chillicothe, 22-19
By GARY HENERY
News Managing Editor
CHILLICOTHE — What a difference a week makes.
Big Walnut shook off last week’s 27–0 season-opening loss to Westerville Central with a solid all-around performance in a 22–19 non-conference road victory over the Cavaliers Friday night in Chillicothe.
“Chillicothe is a tough place to play,” Golden Eagle head coach Joe Weaver said. “Tonight our players responded to the challenge and came away with the win … it was a win we needed coming off a loss ”
Big Walnut (1–1), which defeated the Cavaliers 38–22 last season at Chillicothe, never trailed in the contest, opening up a 22–7 lead with 10 points in the third quarter and withstood two second half Cavalier touchdowns in the 3-point margin of victory.
With the Golden Eagles clinging to a slim 12–7 advantage, Big Walnut went back to work in the third quarter behind senior quarterback Carson Chatterton. Chatterton and senior wide receiver Seth Myers hooked up on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 6:37 left in the third period for a 19–7 lead as freshman kicker Tommy Slesser converted the extra point. Later in the period Slesser would split the uprights with his first varsity field goal from 26 yards out to put Big Walnut up 22–7 with 4:46 to play.
Chillicothe battled back behind the play of quarterback Ryan Mathis and running back Timmy Beard. Beard put the finishing touches on a late third quarter 64-yard march with a 13-yard scamper into the end zone. Getting the ball back on downs, quarterback Ryan Mathis connected with Isaiah Johnson on a 22-yard completion to set up his second touchdown run of the day to pull the Cavaliers to within a field goal of the lead at 22–19. But the Golden Eagle offense rose to the occasion, running the final 4:46 off the clock to spoil the Cavaliers’ hopes of a comeback victory.
In an opening half dominated by fumbles and punts, Big Walnut finally broke through and scored twice in a 15-minute span to take 12–0 lead. Christian Johnson, the Golden Eagles’ 5-foot-6, 150-pound senior back, scored from 11 yards out with 1:34 left in the opening period to give the Golden Eagles a lead they never surrendered. Big Walnut made it 12–0 as junior back Alec Eisnnicher scored on a 1-yard run with 10:19 remaining in the first half for a 12–0 Big Walnut advantage.
The Cavaliers finally mounted the scoreboard with time running out in the opening half. Quarterback Ryan Mathis dove into the end zone from a yard out to cut the Big Walnut advantage to 12–7 as the clock ticked down 0:00.
Big Walnut’s defense, which gave up 503 yards, 344 on the ground, and 25 first downs in last week’s loss to Westerville Central made the lead stand up. Chillicothe (0–2), coming off a 52–33 loss to Hamilton Township in its season opener, managed only 185 yards in total offense against the Golden Eagle defenders, 72 on the ground and 113 through the air. The Cavs totals 11 first downs.
By comparison, Big Walnut finished with 319 yards in total offense, 201 coming on the ground and 118 through the air. The Golden Eagles totaled 17 first downs. Big Walnut’s time of possession was 23 minutes and 37 seconds compared to the Cavaliers’ 24:23.
Johnson led Big Walnut on the ground with 127 yards in 18 carries. Chatterton, who rushed for 37 yards in 12 carries, completed 12 of 18 passes (66.7 percent) for 118 yards. Senior wide receiver Adam Shaheen had four receptions while senior Gabe Kitchen and Myers had three apiece. Kitchen averaged 11.7 yards and Myers 11.0 yards per catch.
“Our defense responded to the challenge and our offense made the plays it needed to make for us to be successful,” Weaver said. “We’re looking for this win to give us the momentum we need heading towards are Ohio Capital Conference schedule.”
Big Walnut returns home to entertain Cleveland Collinwood in non-league action on Senior Parents Night Friday. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
The Golden Eagles open their OCC Capital Division slate the following Friday, September 14, hosting rival Olentangy at Golden Eagle Stadium. Kickoff time is set for 7:30 p.m.