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Saturday, June 23, 2012 - 12:09pm

Raiders Ready For Tough Early Schedule

Walton has become one of the state’s perennial football powers. But even for the Raiders, last season was a heady experience. For the first time in program history, the Raiders made the state final. Also, for the first time in its history, Walton won more than 12 games by finishing with a 14-1 record.

Coach Rocky Hidalgo’s Raiders have finished up spring practice and is looking ahead to conquering the one remaining goal the program has yet to reach: a state championship.

“We’re not strangers to success,” said Hidalgo. “We’re not shying away from anything. We’re preparing to win state.”

The third-year coach’s confidence has translated to the team’s 2012 schedule. The Raiders open up yet again in the Corky Kell Classic, which has become a yearly tradition for the east Cobb school. In 2012 Walton will open with Brookwood in the Dome, then will face McEachern six days later in Powder Springs in “The Battle of I-75.”

While some coaches will avoid such challenging non-region games, Hidalgo wanted them.

“Our head coach is an idiot,” joked Hidalgo after being asked why the Raiders were opening with such tough competition.

“We play good teams, we’re not opposed to that,” said Hidalgo. “It’s a good schedule for us.”

Heading into the summer, Hidalgo and his staff have a number of questions to address.

“We have to replace some of the kids we lost,” said Hidalgo. “We have a lot of holes to fill, and we’ll have to slide everyone up a spot.”

With an offense led by quarterback Parker McLeod (Alabama commit), running back Tyler Jones (Alabama commit) and offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow (Georgia commit), the Raiders will not lack talent.

The program has moved up to the new Class AAAAAA, and will look to win its first state title in the first year of six classifications. While it will be a difficult task, Walton will be considered a serious state title contender by most experts.

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