DALLAS, Ga. – Sporting one of the best offenses in the state of Georgia, Walton needed every point it could get Thursday night on the road against a talented North Paulding squad.
Standout junior quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski tossed a season-high six touchdown passes and helped mount a late drive that set up a game-winning field goal in the closing minutes to send the Raiders past the Wolfpack 51-49.
The win improves the Raiders to 4-1 on the season and extends their winning streak to four in a row after dropping the season-opener to nationally ranked Mill Creek at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Walton’s game-winning drive came after the defense got a stop with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter. Hecklinski then marched the Raiders 60 yards to get them into field goal range.
Junior kicker Alex Rupp drilled the 20-yard field goal to send the Warriors home victorious.
“We got ourselves in field goal range and at that point it was about making sure that we protected the ball,” Walton head coach Daniel Brunner said. “Only hit open receivers and make sure the clock stopped after we throw the ball. (Hecklinski) did an excellent job getting us down there and then Alex stepped up big with a field goal.”
The Raiders led the vast majority of the game.
Hecklinski’s first of six touchdown passes came early in the first quarter when he connected with Cameron Loyd to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead.
With the game tied at 14-14, Hecklinski put the Raiders back out in front with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Loyd.
As good as Hecklinski was for the Raiders, Boone Anderson was equally as good for the Wolfpack. Anderson scored two TDs in the first half, one on the ground and one through the air to knot the game at 21-21.
Hecklinski tossed his third touchdown pass of the night late in the third quarter, this time to Wyatt Sonderman, to regain the lead 28-21.
The Wolfpack was able to knock through a late field goal to trim the Raiders' lead to 28-24 heading into halftime.
Looking to take their first lead of the game, Anderson and the Wolfpack did just that early in the third quarter on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Owen Dupree.
Trailing for the first time all night, it didn’t take long for the Raiders to respond. Hecklinski marched the Raiders into Wolfpack territory and connected with Loyd again for a touchdown.
The score gave the Raiders a slim 35-31 lead and it got even smaller after a Wolfpack field goal with five minutes remaining in the third quarter trimmed it to 35-34.
But Hecklinksi answered back again, this time on a touchdown pass to Hunter Teal to extend the lead back out to eight, 42-34.
Once again, the Wolfpack answered back with a 30-yard touchdown run from Jaylen Poe and a successful 2-point conversion knotted the game at 42-42 with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter.
With time winding down in the third quarter, Hecklinski tossed his sixth touchdown pass of the game to Sonderman, but a missed extra point kept their lead at just six points, 48-42 late in the third quarter.
The missed extra point proved costly after Poe raced 80 yards for a go-ahead score with 11:12 left in the fourth quarter to give North Paulding just their second lead of the night, 49-48.
From that point on, however, the two offenses went cold. The Raiders got a late stop with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter and Hecklinski was able to mount one last scoring drive to set up the game-winning field goal.
“Offensively we played stellar,” Brunner said. “But defensively, we have got to play better. That is a really good offense, no discounting them. Hats off to North Paulding with what they did. But we have got to play better. A lot of guys were banged up and we were rotating a lot of guys but the boys found a way to win, so I’m proud of that for sure.”
The Raiders complete their 5-game non-region schedule at 4-1 and will open Region 5-AAAAAAA play next Friday at home against North Cobb.
North Paulding drops to 4-2 on the season. Their two losses to Kennesaw Mountain and Walton have been by a combined three points. The Wolfpack have a bye next week.