Fast start propels Big Walnut gridders to 27-14 OCC road victory at Watkins Memorial
By GARY HENERY
News Managing Editor
PATASKALA — When all was said and done … the first half was the difference for the Golden Eagles.
Big Walnut (4–2, 2–1 OCC) rode three first-half touchdowns along with a dominating defense to a 27–14 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory over the host Warriors (1–5, 1–2 OCC) Friday night at Watkins Memorial High School.
Joe Weaver‘s Golden Eagles (4–2, 2–1 OCC) rolled up 251 yards and 11 first downs in 29 plays en route to a 20–0 halftime advantage. Senior quarterback Carson Chatterton, who completed 11 of 15 passes for 206 yards over the first two quarters, threw touchdown strikes to senior wide receiver Gabe Kitchen, sophomore running back Christian Johnson and to senior wide receiver Adam Shaheen.
After holding the Warriors on downs at the Golden Eagle 20 on the game’s first series, Big Walnut took over at its own 30 and found the end zone in four plays as Chatterton found Kitchen on a 59-yard touchdown pass for an early 7–0 lead with 5:02 left in the opening period.
The Golden Eagles struck for two scores in the final 6-plus minutes of the first half, Chatterton and Johnson combining on a 44-yard scoring connection to make it 14–0 with 6:12 left before finding Shaheen on a 12-yard scoring pass with 0:28.2 seconds remaining before the break.
Meanwhile, Big Walnut’s defense was throttling the Warriors, limiting Watkins Memorial (1–5, 1–2 OCC) to 76 yards and four first downs in 26 plays with three of its four possessions ending on punts.
“We came out and played a solid first half both offensively and defensively,” Weaver said. “We were totally focused coming out of the lockerroom and executing our game plan against a competitive Watkins Memorial team.”
The second half was a different story for the Golden Eagles.
Big Walnut’s offense, plagued by mistakes, snapped the ball only 14 times in the second half while managing only 18 yards and one first down against the Warriors.
“We made too many offensive mistakes in the second half, mistakes we are going to have to address before we play Mount Vernon next week,” Weaver said. “As a result, we weren’t as sharp in the second half as we were in the first half, giving Watkins opportunities to put points on the board.”
After a scoreless third quarter, junior Hunter Holton intercepted a Chatterton pass and returned it to the Warrior 47. Nine plays later, Watkins’ junior quarterback Ben Shroyer tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Holton with 7:22 left in the game.
Following the ensuing kickoff, Watkins Memorial got the ball right back as senior Boban Stepanovich recovered Chatterton’s fumble at the Golden Eagle 34, but on the Warriors’ first play, Shaheen stepped in front of a Shroyer pass at the Big Walnut 16 and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach 27–7 with 7:01 to play.
“Our defense did a great job all night,” Weaver said. “They made big plays all night.”
Watkins Memorial closed out the scoring with a 16-play, 70-yard drive that ended on senior Brenden Kemp’s 1-yard run with 2:33 left in the contest.
For the game, Big Walnut, led by Chatterton’s 206-yard pass performance, totaled 253 yards and 12 first downs in 43 plays. Kitchen (92 yards), Seth Myers (40) and Shaheen (22) had three receptions apiece. Led by Johnson’s 51 yards in 13 carries, the Golden Eagles netted only 47 yards in 24 plays.
Watkins Memorial totaled 256 yards and 17 first downs in 73 snaps. Shroyer was 18-for-34 passing for 152 yards. Holton had 8 catches for 97 yards. The Warriors rushed for 104 yards in 39 plays with Kemp collecting 102 yards in 29 attempts.
Big Walnut returns home Friday night to host OCC rival Mount Vernon in the Golden Eagles annual Homecoming Game. The kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Golden Eagle Stadium.