LONGVIEW, Texas -- It was crunch time and Gilmer (Texas) High School needed a stop. Holding on to a seven-point lead, one which the Buckeyes earned by coming back from a 17-point deficit, they needed to hold Henderson (Texas) High School and its talented quarterback, Patrick "Monsta" Brown, out of the end zone with the Lions in Gilmer territory.
During a timeout before second down, Gilmer outside linebacker Josh Walker, a 2014 Texas A&M commit, let his coaches know he was ready to answer the bell.
"I went to the sideline when they called timeout and I told my position coach 'Just count on me. Put me in a position to make a play and I'll make it,'" Walker said. "And we kind of knew the situation we were in and what they were doing. I told him I'll make a play."
Walker did better than that. He made two plays. With back-to-back tackles for loss, Walker turned second-and-10 to fourth-and-15 for Henderson. Brown tried to fire a deep pass on fourth down but it fell incomplete and the Buckeyes took over, fed Walker a few carries at running back to churn out the clock and punch their ticket to the Class 3A Division II semifinals.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Walker, who committed to Texas A&M on Oct. 24, walked off the field a tired young man after spending plenty of time at both outside linebacker and running back for the Buckeyes.
"I'm a bit worn out but I'll be all right," he said. "We'll come out next week and work hard and we're going to go get another 'W.'"
The Buckeyes are now two wins away from a state championship, needing a win over Graham (Texas) High School on Friday to advance to the final at Cowboys Stadium.
"It's overwhelming," Walker said of the run. "A lot of people didn't think we could do it. They say we're too small or we're not big enough. So at practice we just stress it. We'll go out and play harder and strike everybody and wrap up and tackle. That's what we have to do."
As for the Aggies, Walker has long had a love for the maroon-and-white. Growing up, he idolized Von Miller, according to his mother Angela. Josh would love to come in and be the next version of the now premier NFL pass rusher for the Denver Broncos.
When he went to visit Aggieland for a game this fall, he was sold on everything the school had to offer, despite also having offers from Oklahoma and Texas.
"I went down there for the LSU game and visited and the student section was crazy, the atmosphere was crazy, it was one of the best atmospheres I've ever been in," Walker said. "I felt like I was at home. The coaching staff made me feel comfortable. I'm not too nervous around them. It's close to home and I'd love to play in the SEC and love to play for the Aggies. I've always liked them."
He's also impressed with the Aggies' first-year success in the SEC, going 10-2.
"It's going to help with recruiting a lot like it's already doing," Walker said. "A&M's on the rise and I just say 'watch out' to whoever has to play them."
For now, Walker's focused on getting his team to its ultimate goal.
"We just have to keep working hard, coming practice to every week with the mentality that we're going to win, beat the people in front of us and keep working as a team," Walker said. "Teams win championships. We don't have individuals; we have a team. It'll be a team effort."