By Christian Malone
MARIETTA -- The ball doesn't always bounce your way.
On the key play of Friday nigh's Valdosta-Walton game, it didn't bounce Valdosta's way. Figuratively or literally.
Late in the third quarter, Walton's Justin Forte broke through a hole in the line and took off running into the open field. He put the entire defense behind him, but for the third time this season, Valdosta's Corey Council ran down a ballcarrier. He reached Forte around midfield, grabbed him, then punched the ball out of his grasp. The ball went forward, hit the ground, then bounced up -- right to Forte, who caught it and ran the rest of the way for an 83-yard touchdown.
It was blind luck, a longshot bounce right back into the hands of the ballcarrier. Unfortunately for Valdosta, it was Walton's final score, and ultimately the deciding one, in the Raiders' 17-14 AAAAA state quarterfinals victory.
Friday night's game was a battle of two tough defenses. Neither team drove the ball for a score. Valdosta's touchdowns came on a 1-yard Scott Shuman quarterback sneak, which had been set up by Council's punt return to the 1, and an 80-yard screen pass from Shuman to Jamal Scott. Walton's three scores came after a fumble recovery at the VHS 16, a punt return to the VHS 16, and the aforementioned run-fumble-run by Forte.
Walton played disciplined defense to bottle up the Wildcats' running game, never allowing holes to open up for Scott and the other Valdosta backs, and its secondary never gave Valdosta's quarterbacks an open receiver.
Valdosta's defense contained Forte, Walton's 2,000-yard rusher, other than the touchdown run, and put pressure on quarterback Ross Applegate.
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