Walton will be on the field all night Thursday for the first “Battle of Elyria.”
“We have to play hard every down,” Walton said of Thursday challenge from Elyria Catholic.
“We have to play as a team. We’re going to be ready.”
Walton has caught 10 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games, proving to be a game-changer along the way.
Against Amherst, Elyria trailed 20-0 going into the final quarter when Walton beat his defender on a sideline route and scored on a 60-yard touchdown pass.
After Elyria got the ball back, he duplicated the play from 19 yards to cut the score to 20-13 within the blink of an eye.
He had another 61-yard play to set up Elyria’s final score in the 27-20 loss.
“We kept fighting,” Walton said. “We wanted to win but time ran out. I think we had some first-time jitters. Those are gone now.”
On defense, Walton has had eight solo tackles and one interception. He’ll be a key player if the Pioneers hope to limit EC quarterback Danny Reaser’s effectiveness.
“He’s definitely a Division I player-in-the-making,” Panthers coach Ben Malbasa said of Walton. “We have to watch him, no doubt. He can make plays.”
“He has that potential,” agreed Elyria coach Steve Hamilton. “He has the potential to be a Division I player but he has to realize that at times he has to harness his ego. If he does that and stays within the team, he can be a really good football player.”
“I’m the No. 1 option,” Walton said confidently without sounding smug. “It’s a team sport. It’s not just me.”
“He’s certainly shown up the first two weeks,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t bother him that he’s on the field the whole time. He’s in great shape. He’s always in front for the sprints.
He’s always leading. Him and Malik (Merriweather) are always out there together.
They’re always challenging each other — which is only going to make him better.”
Hamilton admitted he had to keep his team focused on the opponent at hand the first two weeks, but he’s noticed the difference in preparation for Elyria Catholic.
“This week’s been a different week as far as uptempo practices,” Hamilton said.
“We haven’t had as coaches as much to motivate kids. The kids are ready. They’re fired up. It’s the crosstown rivals that we’re going to build on. It’s great for the community.
Obviously, it’s great for the kids. They’re fired up about it.
“It’s just neat that it’s here now. It’s a short week. It’s on TV. All the media around here are fired up. I got the newspapers, the radio’s coming — you tell kids that and they get fired up.” Walton and Hamilton are expecting a huge crowd.
“It’s going to be an exciting night,” Hamilton said. “It’s going to be electric.”
“We’ll both be ready to play,” Walton said.
“We’ve been ready to go since we heard about it. This is the first time we’ve faced Elyria Catholic.
We know them.
We’re friends with a lot of them. It’ll be an emotional game.”
Unsung hero: Jarred Williams
Watch the films of Elyria High’s first two games and one person always seems to be around the ball.
That would be No. 10 — junior defensive lineman Jarred Williams — who at 5-foot-8 has plenty of quickness and strength to make up for any lack of size.
“This year he’s bought into our weight-lifting program,” Pioneers coach Steve Hamilton said. “The young man looks like a little wrecking ball. He’s got a motor that won’t stop. He squats over 555 pounds, he benches over 300 pounds and he can run very well.
“As an offensive lineman myself, I always loved facing the big guys. I couldn’t stand facing the little guys. Jarred’s a little guy but he’s also a strong and fast little guy with a low center of gravity. He’s tough to block.”
“I always try to go hard 100 percent of the time,” Williams said. “All of us on the D-line are ready to go all the time.
I’m always looking to make the plays.”
Inevitably, opponents will double-team Ohio State recruit Chase Farris, but they’re finding out that they also have to watch Williams. He forced an intentional grounding penalty last week at North Olmsted and was in on several stops at the line of scrimmage. Elyria held the Eagles to 33 rushing yards.
Williams, with seven solo tackles and four assists, will be a key along with the rest of Elyria’s defensive line if the Pioneers intend to win the showdown with Elyria Catholic. “Without the other three (defensive linemen),” Hamilton said, Farris) doesn’t do anything. What people can do is double-team (Farris) or run away from him. The other linemen with Jarred — Jeremy Emerine and Shaq Brown — have all done an outstanding job coming around for us.”