McKellar’s kick gives Walker win over Pell City Featured
Written by Johnathan Bentley
Daily Mountain Eagle
Published in Sports
Friday night’s Walker-Pell City saga had it all.
A nip-and-tuck game that included late lead changes and a team driving down the field in the closing seconds.
All that was missing was a hero — then Chris McKellar stepped onto the field.
The junior kicker drilled a 36-yard field goal with three seconds left on the clock, sending the sideline into a frenzy and capping off a 17-16 season-opening thriller over Pell City at Ki-Ro Gambrell Field.
It was McKellar’s first ever game-winning kick.
“I hadn’t (made one), but I had been dreaming about it. Everyone was telling me I was going to make it. I believed it. I knew it was good, I put my hands up,” McKellar said.
He had missed a 28-yard field goal in the same end zone just minutes earlier in the fourth quarter.
“(Missing) doesn’t affect me. I’ve always been taught, forget about the last kick, whether you make it or miss it,” McKellar added.
The Vikings set up the kick with a pair of clutch plays from quarterback Jackson Holladay receivers Marquell Oliver and LaMykah Hood in the final seconds.
Pell City went ahead with a field goal of its own at the 1:25 mark for a 16-14 lead.
Walker’s offense, built on sustained drives rather than the big play, dialed up a huge pick up on a crucial third down. With 40 seconds on the clock, Holladay connected with Oliver for a 38-yard gain to the Pell City 27-yard line. Holladay hit Hood for eight yards on the following play to set up McKellar’s game-winner.
Walker coach Heath Brunner said he had faith in his kicker.
“When he hit it, I had a good feeling about it. He had good contact on it. He didn’t have good contact on the last one,” Brunner said. “I told him, coming off the field (after the first miss), that we were going to have to have him. He fought through that mentally and hit the game winner. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
The Walker-Pell City game has come down a field goal each of the last two years with the Panthers making one to win last year’s game 17-14.
“They won last year on the last couple of plays,” Brunner added. “My hat’s off to Pell City. It was a hard-fought game. It feels good to be 1-0.”
The teams were locked in a 7-7 tie at the half.
Pell City struck first with Jermaine Ross connecting with Damion Tucker on a 30-yard touchdown strike with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
Walker tied the game at 7-7 with Holladay hitting Jalen Simon for a 36-yard touchdown with 6:07 left in the first half.
The Vikings took the lead on their first possession of the second half. Ethan Walker’s leaping interception set up the drive. Holladay hit Myron Mitchell for a 15-yard touchdown as the Vikings took a 14-7 with 9:28 left in the third quarter.
Pell City cut the gap to 14-13 with 3:27 remaining in the game on a Ross 2-yard run. The Panthers’ extra point was blocked, leaving Walker with a one-point lead. Pell city got the ball back with 2:08 left on the clock and booted the go-ahead field goal from 19 yards out with 1:25 left.
Before Holladay connected Marquell Oliver for the 38-yard gain on the final drive, Walker had not ran a positive play in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had rushed six times for minus 15 yards and thrown five incomplete passes.
In the game, Holladay completed 19 of 31 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Oliver caught three passes for 50 yards, Simon caught one for 36 yards and a touchdown and Myron Mitchell had seven catches for 22 yards and a score.
On the ground, Marlon Oliver rushed 22 times for 67 yards.
Ethan Walker led the defense with 11 tackles and an interception. Alex Medina had nine tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Garrett Davenport had seven tackles and Lane Davenport added an interception.
Walker now gets a week off before opening Class 6A, Region 5 play at home against Jackson-Olin on Sept. 4.