When Jacobs running back Josh Walker finds a little room to maneuver, he has confidence in what will happen.
“I love that. Nine out of 10 times I’m going to make somebody miss,” Walker said. “You can make big plays, and that’s what helps us win.”
Golden Eagles quarterback Bret Mooney thinks the percentage is even higher.
“Ninety-nine out of 100 times he’s going to make you miss,” Mooney said. “With our spread offense, it gives him more opportunity to get in the open field. That’s good for his talent.”
Walker’s progress through the second part of the season is a reason Jacobs has won seven consecutive games and the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division championship. Walker recorded his career-high Friday with 251 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns in a 34-7 win against District 300 rival Dundee-Crown.
That victory secured a first-round home game for Jacobs, which earned the No. 6 seed at 7-2 in the northern half of the Class 7A bracket. The Eagles host No. 11 Conant (6-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Jacobs Athletic Field.
Walker, a blazing fast, 5-foot-6, 160-pound junior, now is third among area running backs with 873 yards and 10 touchdowns on 138 carries.
“The line has been making some great holes, and I’ve been able to see them a lot better,” Walker said. “That’s been a big help to me.”
Jacobs coach Bill Mitz concurs.
“We’re basically a young team, except for Bret [Mooney], and the offensive line is jelling and opening up more holes,” Mitz said. “If you miss [Walker], he’s going to be gone. He’s a tough, hard-nosed runner.”
Walker debuted with the varsity midway through last season as a 5-3, 140-pound sophomore with speed to burn. He made some big plays last year and stepped into the role as No. 1 back this season.
While many players go to speed and agility trainers in the offseason, Walker did not. He works with his father Greg, a former cornerback at Syracuse from 1989-92. Walker took fourth in the 100 meters in the FVC Track and Field Meet last spring.
“At the beginning of the year we didn’t establish the run game very well,” Mooney said. “Now we’re more two-dimensional. It’s going to be even harder to stop us up front.”
Mitz enjoys having the diminutive back on his side.
“His ability to make cuts, cutting on a dime,” said Mitz about what Walker’s best attribute is. “He makes very good moves.”
When Mooney went on his wild scramble as time ran out against Crystal Lake South, he happened to find Walker near the middle of the field and fired a long lateral at South’s 30. It’s likely no one else would have beaten South defensive back Austin Rogers to the pylon at the goal line, but Walker won the race. Jacobs won that game, 26-20, avoiding overtime.
On Friday, he scored on runs of 7, 46 and 89 yards.
“Each game it’s kind of slowed down for me, and I’m used to the game speed,” Walker said. “It helps to see the holes better.”