WALNUT – Falkner won the game on the stat sheet. The Walnut Wildcats won where it really mattered – the scoreboard.
Thursday in a classic between North Tippah rivals, Walnut rallied from a 21-12 third-quarter deficit to defeat Falkner 28-21 in the 13th Joe Bowl.
“Such a hard-fought win,” said Walnut coach John Meeks. “I’ve got to give Falkner tons of credit. They dominated the line of scrimmage, but we got a few stops and caught some breaks at crucial times.”
Falkner outgained Walnut 343-287, but Walnut got a huge 70-yard kick return from Dandy Dozen athlete Armani Linton with 2:37 to play in the third quarter to pull the Wildcats to within 21-20. Linton finished with 128 rushing yards on 22 carries and a rushing score.
“I ran with my heart on my shoulders and God was with me the whole night,” said Linton.
Walnut won it on an 8-play, 66-yard drive capped with a 18-yard TD run by QB Will Quinn on a busted play with 5:01 remaining. With no timeouts over the final five minutes, Falkner’s hopes ended at the midfield on a turnover on downs.
Running back Jeramie Lawrence had all three scores – one rushing, two receiving – for Falkner, totaling 166 yards.
“We needed a game like this,” said Falkner coach Quess Hood. “We needed somebody to test us and Walnut did.”
Falkner quarterback Jase Stroupe finished 4-for-7 for 119 yards and two scores.
Turning Point: Walnut’s Armani Linton’s 70-yard kick return for a score and 2-point conversion cut Falkner’s lead to 21-20 with 2:37 left in third quarter.
Point Man: Linton totaled 213 yards and two TDs.
Talking Point: “I hope they win every game they play, after this one.” – John Meeks on Falkner.