Walsh, Ajayi led fledgling schools to new heights


Class 5A: J.W. Walsh, Denton Guyer, QB

When his team fell short of the Class 5A Division II state championship game, J.W. Walsh apologized to teammates.

A late-game Walsh interception (only his sixth in 303 attempts) allowed Cibolo Steele to hold off a late Guyer threat, 24-21.

But realistically, how close to 13 wins or the state title game would Guyer have gotten without Walsh’s amazing season? The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Oklahoma State commit completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,188 yards and 35 touchdowns.

As a runner, the durable Walsh led the Wildcats with 1,423 yards and 16 touchdowns. Combined, he generated over 4,611 yards of offense and 51 touchdowns in a 16-game season, leading the five-year-old school to its first state title appearance.

Walsh threw for a season-high 345 yards in a season-opening win over Waxahachie and rushed for a season-best 202 yards the following week in a loss to Cedar Hill.

Perhaps just as important as his statistics was his value to the team as a leader.

Class 4A: Jay Ajayi, Frisco Liberty, RB

The 6-foot, 200-pound tackle-breaking Ajayi helped put five-year-old Liberty on the football map in a memorable 12-1 season.

The senior, bound for Boise State, rushed for 2,219 yards and 35 touchdowns on 225 carries. He twice reached a game-high total of 292 yards, against Frisco Centennial in midseason and against South Oak Cliff in a bi-district playoff win.

In sparing use as a receiver, Ajayi had seven catches for 67 yards and one touchdown.

With Ajayi leading the way, Liberty stormed through an unbeaten regular season and two rounds of the playoffs before losing, 38-24, to Bastrop in the Class 4A Division II Region II semifinals.

But even in defeat, Ajayi didn’t go down quietly, rushing for 193 yards and a touchdowns.

Although far from a one-man team, Ajayi’s value to his team was on display in every week of Liberty’s season.