The Darlington Tigers capped off their regular season with a resounding 46-7 region road victory over the Walker Wolverines Friday in Marietta. The win assures the Tigers of the No. 3 seed from Region 7-A Private when they begin their state playoff journey in two weeks.
“I liked the way we came out,” Tigers head coach Tommy Atha said. “Got a stop and executed offensively. We eliminated a lot of mistakes tonight. I felt like we had a number of kids contribute. Just a great team effort.”
Darlington wasted no time in finding the scoreboard first, thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Patrick Shelley. Shelley would finish the day 9-for-14 for 102 yards with two touchdowns apiece through the air and on the ground.
“Shelley had a super game again,” Atha said. “I was very pleased with the way we caught the football. That’s big for us. We’ve got to be able to distribute the ball to a number of guys.”
After Shelley’s first rushing score, senior running back Harrison Allen got in on the action with a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Atha said Allen, with his 92-yard performance against Walker, looks to have eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards on the season.
“That was a big feather in his cap,” Atha said. “And ours.”
After one quarter, Darlington held a 19-0 advantage, outpacing Walker in total offense 154 yards to minus-2. That would set the tone for the remainder of the night.
At halftime, it was all Tigers 32-0.
Senior running back Luke McDurmon scored on a reverse from 23 yards out on the first drive of the second half to extend the Darlington edge to 39-0.
Walker reached the end zone for the first and only time Friday when senior running back Keon Smart dashed 51 yards to the end zone to break up the shutout.
However, Darlington’s defense locked it down the rest of the way. Thomas Bethel had an interception and Walker was held to two first downs in the entire first half.
“Defensively, I thought we flew around,” Atha said. “(Keon Smart) is as quick as anybody we’ve seen all year.”
The Tigers finish 6-4 for the first time since 2017. Darlington has a scheduled bye week before beginning its state playoff journey on the road against Region 6-A Private No. 2 seed, currently Mount Pisgah Christian.
“We’ve played 10 weeks in a row and so it was big for us to get this win and catch our breath a little bit,” Atha said. “We’re certainly not going to take the week off; we’re going to continue to work hard. We’ve just got to make sure we practice smart and take advantage of it.”
The 10-week grind has seen its ups and downs, but Atha highlighted battling through challenges during the process.
“We talk all the time about how you handle adversity is your true measure of character,” Atha said. “We’ve played a very tough schedule. Our non-region games have been against some really good teams. Our region’s we feel like really strong. We feel like we finished well and we’re very, very blessed to be where we are today.”