Walker a most versatile player for Millionaires

Elliott Walker’s three touchdown game vs. State College has Williamsport in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Elliott Walker’s three touchdown game vs. State College has Williamsport in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Elliott Walker felt like one big sore following Friday’s Class AAAAAA state tournament opener against State College. Three different times he left the field injured, hurting a new body part.

Every time, Walker returned and made huge plays. Walker long ago proved how good a player he is. Last Friday, he proved he is every bit as tough. And that combination created a memorable all-around performance.

Walker shined in every facet against State College, helping Williamsport de­feat the Little Lions, 35-28, and reach the state quarterfinals. Despite injuring his ankle and foot and battling leg cramps, Walker caught three touchdowns, intercepted a pass, broke up four passes, punted well and delivered some good punt returns. On a night when so many Millionaires shined, Walker might have been the game’s most valuable player.

“After 13 weeks of football, everybody is sore and Elliott knows his position, he knows his importance to the team,” Williamsport coach Chuck Crews said. “Every chance he got, he picked himself right back up and he came back and kept balling.”

Williamsport (12-1), which plays two-time de­fending state champion Pittsburgh Central Cath­olic Saturday in Altoona, is having one of its best seasons ever. The entire state is learning how good the Millionaires are but when most think about them, they first think about all-state candidates like quarterback Isaiah Hankins and running back Treyson Potts. One can hardly blame them as both have put up video-game like numbers.

But those who overlook Walker are missing a lot. He hurts teams in so many ways and provides so much value. He is like a baseball player that can play any position. Just line him up wherever you want and watch Walker excel.

“I’m an athlete. I don’t do one thing,” Walker said. “If coach tells me to go somewhere I’m going. I’m ready to ball.”

Walker has done that all season. He leads Williamsport in receiving with 39 catches for 745 yards. Walker has tied Jerah Reeves’ program record for single-season touchdowns (13) and can beat opponents deep or by catching a short pass and turning it into something big. Only one district receiver has more touchdown catches than Walker does.

The emergence of Potts as a freshman running back last season allowed Williamsport to move Walker from the backfield to the slot and that transition has made Williamsport more explosive.

To measure how dynamic Walker is consider this: He is the only area player to ever top 1,000 career rushing and receiving yards. Offensive coordinator Kevin Brown has skillfully utilized him throughout the year, too. The versatile senior averages 7.2 yards per carry in addition to 19.1 yards per catch and ran for a go-ahead touchdown in a 55-21 district championship win against Delaware Valley.

Add in what Walker does on special teams and Williamsport has a player capable of producing a big play every time he touches the ball. Let people debate who Williamsport’s most valuable player is. Walker is its MVP when it comes to most versatile player.

“He is probably the most overlooked player on our team,” Crews said. “He’s our punter, punt returner, kick returner, cornerback and he runs the ball and catches the ball. He is a utility guy. He is the Swiss army knife of Williamsport football.”

Walker can put the dagger in opponents defensively as well. One of the district’s best cornerbacks, Walker has intercepted a team-high five passes and has locked down several outstanding receivers. A good tackler as well, Walker has been key to the defense’s resurgence over the last five weeks.

At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Walker is athletic enough to give up some inches but still be effective and quick enough to stick with the fastest receivers on the field. That and his intelligence and instincts helped Walker make one of the game’s biggest plays against State College when he intercepted a late pass and returned it 31 yards to midfield.

That was one of many standout plays Walker made Friday as the rest of the state started learning how valuable he really is. Walker caught three first-half touchdowns as Williamsport took a 28-7 first-half lead. He scored on throws of 18 and 31 yards, both times beating the defender on 3rd-and-long. After State College missed a second-quarter field goal, Walker went to work again. Not content to sit on the ball and protect a 14-point lead, Hankins looked deep and hit Walker in stride at midfield. Walker did the rest, outrunning a speedy defensive back and giving Williamsport another 21-point lead.

“Elliott is a very dangerous player. He’s hard to contain,” Hankins said. “I just try to get him the ball in open space and he does the rest. He makes my job real easy.”

State College featured two dynamic 6-foot receivers in Noah Woods and Brandon Clark. Those two provide matchup problems so Williamsport used Walker on both players at different times. Walker consistently delivered, too. Woods caught only one pass against Walker who also minimized Clark’s impact. In addition to making that key interception, Walker also broke up four passes and played a role in quarterback Tyler Snyder throwing 30 incompletions.

“Being a senior you have to lead your team and all the seniors are doing that,” Walker said. “We just want to lead the team and go as far as we can go.”

Actions speak louder than words and Walker led the best way possible against State College. He could have given into the pain and stayed on the sidelines. Instead, Walker played like a warrior and helped keep Williamsport’s state championship dreams alive. Just as important, Walker did what all great leaders do.

He made those around him better.

“Elliott plays hard. Even when he gets injured he keeps coming back and plays his heart out,” defensive end Keough Johnson said. “He helps us out big-time.”

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