Walton smacked Lambert right in the mouth with a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play of their scrimmage Friday in Marietta, and the Longhorns never seemed to fully recover.
Offensively, Lambert opened with five straight punts, as Walton built a 20-0 lead en route to a 36-7 victory.
“We didn’t a good job of getting to the second level in the run game,” Longhorns head coach Marc Beach said. “That hurt us.
“We just gave up big plays. I don’t know if we were wide-eyed coming in. We give up the first play. We give up another big play, and then we give up a third-and-18 on the first series of the second half. You can’t do that and expect to win.”
The lone offensive highlight to speak of for Lambert in the first half showed a glimpse of the Longhorns’ big-play potential.
Coming out of a timeout, quarterback James Tyre lofted a jump ball to wide receiver Brandon Jones near midfield. The senior managed to bring the ball down, shrugged off the Raiders defensive back and sprinted to the end zone for an 86-yard touchdown.
“James gave him a chance to go up and get it,” Beach said. “He made a great play on it. It was a good spark for our offense. But we’ve got to be able to run the football. We have three really good backs, and we’ve got to find a way to run the football. We’ll look and see what we’ve got to do to get better.”
While the Lambert defense struggled on the opening series in each half, the unit made some key plays in between those drives.
Walton’s Makari Bodiford scored his second touchdown in as many possessions for a 13-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. But the Raiders were forced to punt on their next two series, and following a touchdown pass on their fifth drive, Walton lost a fumble through the end zone just moments after Jones’ score.
“Carson Knowles hit somebody, and it kind of woke our defense up,” Beach said. “Then he made a helluva play on the goal line. The kid was running with it, and he punched it out. That was a big play; that was an effort play.”
Lambert starters remained on the field to begin the third quarter. However, the Longhorns punted again, and the Raiders connected on a 19-yard score for a 27-7 lead.
At that point, the Longhorns turned to its second-stringers with one eye having already turned towards next week, when Lambert will travel for its regular-season opener Aug. 19 at Sequoyah.
Despite the overall product not being at the level Beach would have wanted to see, there are some caveats to the performance.
For one thing, Tyre’s mobility became a non-factor with him being able to be downed by a single touch of the jersey. Even more importantly, the Longhorns were facing a team that’s better than almost anybody they will line up against this season.
“Walton’s got a great program,” Beach said of the 2021 Class 7A semifinalist. “It’s better playing them than somebody who isn’t as talented. You don’t get a whole lot out of it.”