A dynamic debut
It already was a long wait for Donovan Walker to step on the football field, as the Columbian senior sat out the year’s first five games. Thunder and lightning delayed his debut even longer – kickoff was pushed back an hour Friday – and even once he took the field, thanks to Bellevue’s defense, it took nearly a full half for Walker’s presence to be felt.
But it turned out to be well worth the wait for the Columbian faithful. Walker threw for 211 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 67 and led the Tornadoes to a 31-12 victory over the rival Redmen.
“It felt great. I was glad that coach trusts me and let me play, and that my team supported me, too, out there,” Walker said. “I was very happy to be out there.”
Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio was happy to have him out there. Bellevue coach Ed Nasonti wasn’t so happy his team had to defend him.
“He played receiver last year, so I think a lot of people thought it’s going to be a situation where he’s an athlete and we’re going to play two quarterbacks,” Colatruglio said. “I don’t think anyone knew how good he could throw the ball. He could make every throw in our offense. I think you got a little glimpse of how good we could be there. You got to make the tough decision defending us. We got a lot we can throw at people.”
“We knew he was going to play, but there was no way that we could be ready for him because we hadn’t seen them,” Nasonti said. “He definitely added a dimension to their team that we hadn’t seen. He’s a nice athlete. He made some big plays.”
Walker had a rushing touchdown for Columbian’s first score, but with 1:33 left in the first half, Walker was held to 26 yards rushing on seven carries, and was only 2 for 4 passing for 18 yards as Bellevue held a 12-7 lead.
One pass then kick started Walker and Columbian.
Following a Redman touchdown, Columbian took over on its own 30. Walker lofted a pass down the right sideline and Josh Flint raced under it for a 28-yard completion.
Then it was 16-yard pass. Then passes of 11 and 13 yards to Flint got Columbian to the Bellevue 2-yard line.
Walker had arrived.
Ryan Lynch paid off the five-play, 70-yard, 58-second drive by powering into the end zone.
Thirty-three seconds remained in the half and the Tornadoes held a 14-12 lead. A good enough way to go into halftime? Nope.
Spencer Pauly recovered his own onside kick and Walker connected on two more passes to get inside Pauly’s field goal range. The senior booted a 37-yarder through the uprights and the Tornadoes took a 17-12 lead into the break.
“Obviously the big swing at the end of the half, I mean that’s the story of the game,” Colatruglio said. “We were kind of sleepwalking. We get the two minute drill. Honestly if we didn’t complete that first pass we were going to run the clock out. We hit the first throw to Josh Flint and then we got it rolling after that. To score 10 points there in the last minute and a half of the half, that was huge.”
Nasonti agreed that all the momentum left his team after that.
“When they get a touchdown and field goal, you go from possibly being ahead to being down, that kinda gave them some momentum,” he said. “They hit some passes. They’re a good football team there’s no doubt about it. We got beat by a good team.”
After missing on his first two throws, Walker connected on 13 of his next 15. His final throw of the night was a 20-yard dart, threading its way through two Bellevue defenders and into the hands of Russ Yeast for a touchdown.
“This whole week, we only dropped one pass. It was a really good practice week,” Walker said. “The offense was great. We just did what we did in practice and played like it was practice.”
Ryan Lynch closed out the scoring with a 32-yard jaunt where he was seemingly stopped for a short gain, only to power out of the tackle and scamper 30 more yards to pay dirt.
Lynch finished with 120 yards rushing on 21 carries.
“Honestly, he’s the one that makes it go,” Colatruglio said of his bruising tailback. “Everything that we do, all the quarterback runs, all the passing stuff, that all goes because we got the guy that can hammer it inside. When you have to defend and you have to load up to stop him running the ball it just opens everything up everywhere else.”
While Walker, Lynch and the TC offense were racking up yards, Bellevue was standing still. At halftime, the Redmen had 80 yards rushing and 140 total yards. By game’s end, Bellevue had just 211 total yards.
“Great adjustments by our defensive staff. Obviously my brother’s the (defensive) coordinator so I’m a little biased there,” Colatruglio said. “He did a great job of adjusting the second half, slowing down the run game. Then once we get a lead and we can tee off, we’re pretty good.”