It’s been 44 years since a Cobb County team won a state championship in football. Walton (14-0) moved within one victory of rewriting that history Friday.
Tyren Jones rushed for 187 yards on 23 carries and scored on a dazzling 65-yard run at the end of the third quarter that spurred Walton to a 30-24 victory over Region 5-AAAAA rival and east Cobb neighbor Lassiter at Walton’s Raider Valley.
But Lassiter – a No. 4 seed seeking its fourth straight road victory in the playoffs – was alive until the final minute, when Walton defended a fourth-and-goal pass from the 9-yard line. It fell incomplete, and Walton moved on to the Class AAAAA final set for Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
Walton will be the first Cobb team to play for a championship since Harrison in 2000. The last Cobb team to win a state title was Marietta in 1967.
“For years, people told us we’d never win a state championship in Cobb County or at Walton,’’ Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “This staff has been together for 10 years, and we’ve been building and building and building. I’m not saying what will happen, but by gosh we’ve got a chance. And God-willing, we’ll win the game.’’
Jones, a junior who transferred from Lassiter, ran his season rushing total to 2,298, the best in AAAAA, and scored his 37th and 38th touchdowns.
The last one was the deal-maker as he spun away from a defender in the backfield and made a second nifty cut just past the line of scrimmage and went 65. It gave Walton a 30-17 lead with 9.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
‘’We know if we get our blocks down, he’ll be gone,’’ said Walton’s Brandon Kublanow, a tackle on one of the state’s top offensive lines.
But Lassiter would battle on. Eddie Printz – who was 34-of-57 passing for 395 yards and two touchdowns – hit Juwan Dickey for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 9:44 left to make it to 30-24.
Walton drove deep into Lassiter territory, with Jones making a 33-yard run, but missed a field goal.
Lassiter went 76 yards to the Walton 4-yard line but was backed up to the 9 when Printz failed to connect with a well-covered Dickey in the end zone.
Walton led by as much as 21-3 in the first half when Parker McLeod (6-of-10 passing, 172 yards) hit Dakota Richardson on a 79-yard pass.
But Lassiter made a game of it with an 88-yard drive on 16 plays – three that were fourth-down conversions – and scored on Printz’s 2-yard pass to Charlie Hegedus (nine catches, 146 yards) with 10 seconds left in the half.
Walton’s Zack Blaylock, who is committed to Kentucky, set up another first-half touchdown with a 38-yard interception return but suffered a dislocated shoulder on the play and didn’t return to the game. He’s expected to play in the championship game.
Lassiter 0-10-7-7 – 24
Walton 14-7-9-0 – 30
W – Parker McLeod 2 run (Nathan Dittmer kick). 7:45
W – Tyren Jones 13 run (Dittmer kick), 3:15
L – Alex Hanks 37 FG 10:59
W – Dakota Richardson 79 pass from McLeod (Dittmer kick) 10;03
L – Charlie Hegedus 2 pass from Eddie Printz (Hanks kick)
W – Dittmer 28 FG
L – Isiah Willis 5 run (Hanks kick)
W – Jones 65 run (kick failed)
L – Juwan Dickey 9 pass from Printz (Hanks kick)