Jones, the Class AAAAAA rushing leader with 1,675 yards coming into the game, left late in the first quarter with a sprained knee. He did not return, and junior tailback D.J. Smith stepped into the void.
Smith rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns. He added five receptions for 109 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders (7-2, 5-1 Region 5AAAAAA) their first points of the night on the first play of the second quarter.
“We are more than just one guy,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “You can look at our football team and see four BCS football players sitting on the bench with injuries. There have been a thousand opportunities to stack their shoulder pads up and say the season is over with, but they keep fighting. If there is a more resilient team in Georgia, I don’t know who they are.”
In addition to the Alabama-bound Jones, Walton was left without quarterback Parker McLeod (Alabama) and offensive linemen Brandon Kublanow (Georgia) and Jake Boynton (Kentucky).
Etowah held Jones to minus-3 yards on six carries before his injury. Hidalgo said the injury to Jones does not look severe and the hope is for him to be back in about a week.
“We will get him iced up, check him out (today) and hope things go OK,” Hidalgo said.
Walton will travel to Roswell next week, but with the Raiders likely a heavy favorite for that game with the 2-6 Hornets, Hidalgo could choose to rest his star player.
Etowah (4-5, 3-3) opened the scoring with 10 quick points, but Walton answered in the second quarter and took the lead near the end of the third quarter.
Smith caught a screen pass and went 68 yards for the first points and scored on runs of 5 and 35 yards in the second half. Etowah also coughed up three lost fumbles, including one on its own 5-yard line that sett up Walton’s go-ahead score.
Etowah coach Dave Svehla said his team could not come up with the big play it needed for the win. The Eagles scored late in the fourth quarter to cut the Walton lead to 21-16 and got the ball back with 1:37 remaining in the game.
“We just ran out of time,” Svehla said. “I am proud of how our kids got out to the lead in the first half. Walton just made some plays in the second half, and that is a credit to how good of a team they are. Our kids didn’t quit and we had a chance to win at the end. That is all you can ask for against a team like Walton.
The Raiders secured the No. 2 spot in Region 5AAAAAA with the victory. Meanwhile, Etowah needs a win over Lassiter next week and a Woodstock loss to Milton next week to extend its streak of state playoff berths to seven years.