ATLANTA – Walton coach Daniel Brunner said it was all about perseverance, momentum and the will-power of his sophomore quarterback, Zak Rozsman.
That was his description after Walton overcame a 13-point deficit in the final eight minutes to win 21-20 against Norcross in the second game of the Corky Kell Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“He’s a special kid, man,” Brunner said. “He is a special quarterback and is a phenomenal leader of this team. He willed us down the field and got us in the end zone. His leadership means a lot to us.”
Norcross led 20-7 after two Kellen Grave de Peralta field goals in the fourth quarter, but it was the last offensive production the Blue Devils mustered.
Walton’s comeback began with two-play drive, capped by an 82-yard pass from Rozsman to Julian Bumper, with 7:03 left in the game. Following a Norcross punt and 15-yard penalty, Walton then drove 26 yards – all runs – and scored on a 2-yard touchdown run by K.D. Stokes with 3:10 left to take the 21-20 lead.
Norcross’ final drive ended at the Walton 28-yard line, which forced Grave de Peralta to attempt a career-long 44-yard field goal. His miss sent Walton into the victory formation as time expired.
Rozsman was 9-of-18 passing for 192 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
“That was probably the craziest game I have ever experienced,” Rozsman said. “We were down, but we all stayed fine and kept our spirits up going into halftime. We knew we were in control, and we knew we were going to come back. We all just stayed together as a team and executed.”
Roszman gave Walton the first lead of the game on a 16-yard pass to Teagan Bierria with 3:15 left in the first quarter. Norcross tied the game on a 12-yard run from Kaleb Jackson with 4:06 left in the first half. The Blue Devils took a 14-7 lead on a 15-yard pass from Mason Kaplan to Jaylen Green a minute before halftime.
Walton came close to scoring on a gadget play with eight minutes left in the third quarter, but a brilliant strip of the ball by Norcross’ Tyreke Slaton prevented a touchdown. The sequence began as Rozsman passed the ball behind the line of scrimmage to Julian Bumper, who then passed to Justin McConnell, who was open on the right sideline. McConnell was met by Slaton inside the 10-yard line where he tried to cut inside and lost his footing at the same time Slaton went for the strip. The ball popped out and was recovered by Norcross in the end zone for a touchback.
“We had a couple of, kind of, gadget plays,” Brunner said of the double-pass. “Had a double-pass that should have been a touchdown that we ended up fumbling. And we had a little throw-back deal that we ended up scoring on. I think that’s why we are special. Our kids are special, not me, them. They think well, and they can do a lot for us. It makes us very versatile out here on the field.”
Stokes finished with 92 yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown. Jalen Garner led with 10 tackles, a game-high. Norcross’ Kaplan was 9-of-15 passing for 127 yards and a touchdown.