De La Salle quarterback Ryan Walden lay on the field with cramps early in the first quarter of the Cavaliers’ game against Grace King on Thursday night.
That was the closest Walden came to being stopped. He had three two touchdown passes and ran for one as De La Salle outpaced the Fighting Irish 27-0 at Joe Yenni Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
Walden completed 13 of 19 passes for 170 yards, with scoring passes of 33 yards to Victor Gaines and 12 to freshman Tyrik Luckett.
“I guess I didn’t hydrate enough,” said Walden, a senior. “But I was OK after that. We have some things to iron out, but we executed well. It’s good to be 1-0.”
Cavaliers coach Ryan Manale said Walden was more efficient in the team’s quick-passing game than he was in last week’s jamboree loss to Newman. But De La Salle’s defense was the key to the win, Manale said.
Led by freshman defensive end Danquan Edwards and an opportunistic defensive backfield that had two big interceptions, the Cavaliers kept Irish quarterbacks Ricardo Courtney and Tyran Nash in scramble mode.
It was a close battle in the first half. De La Salle led 6-0 on a 23-yard run by Luckett at 50 seconds of the first quarter. It appeared the teams would go into halftime that way, but with 1 second left, Walden threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Gaines.
“It was just a play we made up,” Walden said. “It was based on their coverage, and it was up to Vic. He’s the guy.”
The touchdown gave De La Salle a 13-0 lead and was the key play of the game, Irish coach Bob Hitchens said.
“That took a lot out of us,” he said. “We were right there with them, then it’s 13-0.”
With the Cavaliers defense in control, De La Salle made it 20-0 with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
After Luckett ran 18 yards to the Grace King 12, he caught a touchdown pass from Walden on the next play.
De La Salle sewed up the victory at 8:30 of the fourth quarter when Walden skirted right end for 8 yards. It came three plays after the Cavaliers recovered an errant pitch by Courtney, who was under duress.
Walden passed for 129 yards in the first half on 9-of-12 passing. His biggest pass before the touchdown to Gaines was a 40-yarder to Christian Booker on third-and-23 with two minutes, 38 seconds left in the first quarter that gave De La Salle a first down at the Grace King 27.
Four plays later, Luckett took a wing handoff and swept right end for the first score.
Grace King had two opportunities to score in the first, and both ended with interceptions. After a punt, the Irish went from its 45 to the Cavalier 15, highlighted by Courtney’s 34-yard pass to Glass. On the next play, Courtney was intercepted by Raekwon Thomas at the 5 with 4:59 left in the second quarter.
Courtney was picked off again, by Luke Kelly at the De La Salle 16, after Grace King had gotten a first down at the 32 on a roughing-the-passer penalty.
“Both of those interceptions came in the red zone,” Hitchens said. “We have to work on some things.”