Two of Walker’s longtime rivals are absent from the football schedule in 2014.
The Vikings’ 22-year run of playing Curry High School comes to an end as does the 10-year stretch of playing the Cullman Bearcats.
In their place, Walker becomes reacquainted with some former rivals from the late 1990s. For the first time since 1997, Minor, John Carroll and Pell City are back on the schedule, as the Vikings move up a classification to 6A under coach Heath Brunner. Walker last competed in Class 6A from 1984 to 1997.
Brunner’s first full year as head coach — he served as the interim coach for the last nine games last season —includes games against former 5A powerhouses Homewood and Briarwood Christian.
The schedule also includes five teams that finished with a record below .500 last season.
Walker will have to prove its worth on the road to start the 2014 campaign. Four of the Vikings’ first five games are away from Walker’s Ki-Ro Gambrell Field.
Walker opens the season against Pell City (6-4 in 2013) on Friday, Aug. 22. The Panthers just missed the playoffs in Class 6A last season. The Vikings won the two previous meetings between the team in 1996 and 1997.
After an off week, Walker hits the road again for the Class 6A, Region 5 opener at John Carroll (2-8). The Cavaliers have endured three straight losing seasons. Walker holds a 7-3 lead in the series. The Vikings won the last matchup in 1997.
Walker’s first home game comes in week 4 against the Minor Tigers. Minor has finished 4-6 each of the last two years while playing in Class 6A. The Tigers will be Walker’s closest opponent this season. Walker holds an 11-10 edge in the series. The teams played every year from 1994 to 1997 before ending the series.
The Vikings play at Pelham High School in week 5. The Panthers (6-5) have made the playoffs each of the last two years despite playing in a 6A region with Prattville and Spain Park. The game marks the first meeting between the teams.
Walker makes its longest road trip of the season for a non-region game in week 6. The Vikings travel more than 100 miles to play the Madison County Tigers (8-3). Madison County has won a combined 20 games over the last two seasons in Class 4A. The Vikings and Tigers have never played.
The Vikings host four of their last five opponents, starting with Briarwood Christian (9-3) in week 7. Briarwood Christian has made the playoffs every year since 1993. In their lone meeting, the Lions eliminated Walker from the second round of the playoffs with a 21-14 win in 2010.
Walker plays its final road game in week 8 with a trip to Homewood (9-3). The Patriots, who have won five 5A state titles, have gone 18-5 over the last two seasons. The Vikings faced Homewood from 2000-02. The Patriots lead the series 5-2.
Walker plays its final three games at home against teams that combined for just six wins last year.
Jackson-Olin (1-9) comes to Walker in Week 9. The Mustangs’ last winning season came in 1999. Walker has won all three previous meetings with Jackson-Olin (1999-2001).
Hueytown (3-7), the only returning team from last year’s schedule, makes the trip to Walker in the region finale in week 10. The teams have split games the last two years with Walker winning 9-3 last season. Walker holds a 16-14 series lead.
Walker closes out the regular season with a home game against Northridge (2-8). The Jaguars are 2-18 over the last two seasons. Northridge competed in the region with Tuscaloosa County and Hoover last year. Walker leads the series 2-1.