When asked about players who might be in for a breakout season in 2017, Mansfield Lake Ridge football coach Kirk Thor didn’t hesitate.
“Cartraven Walker,” he said, emphatically. “He probably had the best spring of anybody on the team, and he had a great offseason.”
Walker won’t be new to Friday nights. Statistically, he’s the top returning receiver and all-purpose yards guy for the Eagles. But his role last year was less defined. He played some at running back, some at slot receiver.
“My role was to make plays whenever my number was called,” Walker said. “Coach moved me around for the better of the team, so I just did whatever I had to do when I got the ball in my hands.”
He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot more this season, as he’s expected to feature full time at running back.
I feel like I’m going to have a breakout season this year. We have a great offensive line and great coaching. I can’t wait for game one. Can’t wait.
“He can catch the ball well,” Thor said. “He’s not real big, but he makes good cuts and accelerates fast. He’s got good vision and good speed, so he’s hard to catch. He can create mismatches because you can put him out wide or put him in the backfield, he can do both. I think that’s a really good weapon to have on offense.”
Walker can’t hide his excitement for the upcoming season, and the opportunity before him.
“I feel great about it,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to have a breakout season this year. We have a great offensive line and great coaching. I can’t wait for game one. Can’t wait. My confidence in my game has skyrocketed knowing that Coach Thor believes in me to put me as the No. 1 running back.”
It’s not by chance Walker tops the depth chart. He earned his spot with effort through the offseason and spring.
“The work that you put in is always going to show when you step on the field,” Walker said. “We have great coaches that pick us up and make us achieve more than we think we can. It’s my senior year, so can’t have any regrets. You’ve got to leave it all out on the field and play 110 percent every play.”
It’s always beneficial when the running back has good chemistry with the quarterback, and that shouldn’t be a problem for Lake Ridge, considering Walker and QB Jason Bean are best friends since seventh grade. This is something they’ve been working toward for years.
“It’s awesome, it’s a great feeling just knowing that we have a great team and can get something done and hopefully make that great run,” Walker said. “Words can’t explain how happy we are for this season.”
Ask Walker about his ideal season, and you won’t hear anything about yards or carries, or touchdowns.
“At Lake Ridge we’re really not about personal goals,” he said. “It’s great to have those goals, but at the end of the day I just want to win and play those 16 games.”
Of course, the only teams to play 16 games are those in the state finals.