"That happened after our first game, when I told the coaches there'd been some times when I wished I could have changed things, but wasn't able to. Maybe things would have gone better [in a 32-6 loss to Upper Moreland]. Now I can do that. It makes me feel good that the coaches have that trust and confidence in me to lead the team and put guys in the right positions to score."
Honestly, in a Public AAAA Silver game played Friday at Thomas Edison, the Panthers probably would have fared well with only nine guys on offense.
Edison, which forfeited last week because of low numbers, is experiencing major struggles (though 28 guys were in uniform for this one), and Mastbaum largely frolicked en route to a 40-0 win. As for Walker, yes, he did change some plays, and his decisions usually worked.
In brisk weather, with a hard wind blowing straight across the field, Walker was able to pass 5-for-13 for 77 yards and two touchdowns. He also tallied a 20-yard TD on a designed keeper.
The most memorable play was a 33-yard scoring pass to Kamau Taylor, who, like Walker and 10 Panthers total, attends William Bodine, which partners with Mastbaum for football.
Right out of the gate, Walker mishandled the snap. Somehow, he was able to pick up the ball unchallenged, retreat, look around and find Taylor along the right sideline. Although Taylor was clocked pretty hard at about the 10, he stayed on his feet, not to mention in bounds, and had no trouble making it to the corner of the end zone.
An audible after the snap. Pretty cool, right?
"That was the craziest feeling of the day," Walker said, beaming. "Because you didn't know what to expect."
He continued: "The center really never got the ball up into my hands. When it fumbled, I picked it up and could feel the pressure coming. I looked around, found a target and hit him. And he took it in for a touchdown. First time something like that happened."
Coming into the contest, Walker expected numerous blitzes from Edison. He figured, after a week of inactivity, the Owls would be hungry and aggressive.
"When I did see them coming up to the line, that was usually when I called the audibles and went with slants. They work good when there's no safety back there."
Early, Walker had his struggles. In fact, he completed only one of his first eight passes - an 8-yard score to running back Ahharan Barksdale - and was victimized for an interception.
"The ball was messed up," he said. "Edison said they didn't have a game ball, so they used one of our practice balls. It was, like, flat. Didn't have enough air. I was having trouble with it. They pumped it up at halftime and it felt better in my hand."
Mastbaum's other TDs, all on rushes, went to Frank Quiles (8-75), Barksdale (8-41) and Howard Brumskill. The grunts were center Jose Morales, guards Steven McCoy and Michael Herbert, and tackles Adam Brown and Michael Hrynko.
The Owls did not post a first down until 2:23 remained in the third quarter, as QB Jorge Quinones gained 17 yards on a keeper, and experienced the misadventure of a windblown, minus-2-yard punt to start the fourth.
With 1:28 remaining, however, Zamir Boney's hit caused backup QB Donnell Shields to fumble, and Kareem Smallwood recovered the ball at Mastbaum's 10, yards behind the line of scimmage.
Rusher Deion Fisher was installed as the snap-taker in a wildcat formation. Under pressure from Kevin Hart, Fisher slipped and fell for a 5-yard loss. Then he was sacked for 5 yards by Taylor and for 10 more by Hart. On fourth-and-goal from the 30, a pass from Fisher to Jahiel Hill could produce only 18 yards.
Walker, who lives on Boudinot Street, not far from C and Roosevelt Boulevard, wore little, pink stickers under his eyes with "Mom" on the right and "Godmom" on the left. Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one couldn't help but look at those stickers and wonder . . .
“Oh, no, they’re fine. They’re right over there,” Walker said, brightly, pointing to the stands at his mom, Ericka Gore-Lewis, and godmother, Carol Ware. “They’re my biggest fans. Always here for me for football. For everything in life, really.”
Contact Ted Silary at email@example.com. High school coverage online at www.philly.com/rally.