The Raiders will be nationally televised on Oct. 26 when they host Milton. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.
It was the Milton game that suited both interests of the team and the network. Now Region 5AAAAAA rivals, the two teams met in the first round of the Class AAAAA state tournament last season when they played in different regions with Walton winning 48-14. Milton is expected to be a playoff contender in 2012.
It’s the first time since the school opened 37 years ago that Walton football is being televised nationally. The game was pushed back to 9 p.m. from its standard 7:30 start to suit the needs of markets on the west coast.
“They wanted to profile us and find a good game that we play, and (Milton) worked out best for them and for us, and the rest is history,” Walton athletics director Christian Suttle said. “It was crazy.”
Walton’s Oct. 5 matchup with reigning state semifinalist and region rival Lassiter would likely have been the more fitting matchup for the Walton community, but Walton plays Lassiter on the road and ESPNU preferred to profile the Raiders at Raider Valley.
“We were all very excited for Coach (Rocky) Hidalgo and his coaching staff,” Suttle said. We’re very excited to showcase our school and athletic program. It’s a great opportunity for the kids who will be playing in a year or so on a larger platform, and it gives them exposure.”
Walton had a perfect season prior to its 24-0 loss to Grayson in the state championship. The Raiders cruised through region competition by averaging 35 points a game while giving up just eight.
The Raiders appear to be in good shape offensively, and the nation will have a chance to see it firsthand. Tyren Jones was Cobb County’s leading rusher last season with 2,375 yards and 33 touchdowns. Quarterback Parker McLeod is also returning, and both are on track to be teammates at Alabama next year. Walton should also benefit from a strong offensive line behind Georgia commit Brandon Kublanow.
Its defense took a hit to graduation led by twin defensive backs Zack and Daron Blaylock, who are both starting their college careers at Kentucky and will be less experienced this season with only three starters returning.
The Raiders have a knack for reloading instead of rebuilding and are expecting big things from lineman Blake Montz, who had seven sacks last season.
“I think it will be a great experience for our kids,” Hidalgo said. “It kind of shows where our program is. ESPN wants to come show Walton on a national scale, and that shows what caliber players we have.”