Midlands football players share their go-to pregame rituals
River Bluff running back Braden Walker only knew of one way to get rid of the bitterness that ended his junior season: Put in enough work so it doesn’t happen again.
Walker missed the Gators’ two playoff games after injuring his ankle in the closing minutes of the season-finale victory over Lexington. From the time of his recovery, he wanted to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
If you saw someone running the hills around the River Bluff campus this summer, it was likely Walker. But he wasn’t just running. He had a 100-pound weighted vest strapped to his shoulders, hoping that would help strengthen the lower part of his body and prevent similar types of injuries this season.
“It keeps you in a natural football position,” Walker said of using the weighted vest. “If I can deal with the extra weight on my back while my feet are moving, it will help strengthen my tendons, ankles and knees.”
Walker did plenty for the Gators last season. He rushed for 1,487 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns to lead River Bluff to a 9-2 overall record. But he felt like they could have accomplished more if injuries to him and quarterback Michael Rikard hadn’t caused them to end the season on the sideline.
“Not playing at the end left a sour taste in my mouth. With the way the season ended, I wanted to look to this season to prevent that from happening,” Walker said. “I want the outsiders to forget last season. I want to let everyone in on what’s new this year.”
The Gators do have lofty expectations again this season. Walker himself wants to rush for over 2,000 yards and at least 23 touchdowns. He’s also planning on being a key component on special teams, with a special defensive package or two mixed in.
River Bluff coach Blair Harden has seen growth to Walker in the offseason.
“He’s gotten a lot stronger in the weight room and is in great shape,” Hardin said. “He’s playing some defense this spring and summer, so we don’t have a lot of depth. He’s going to be busy on special teams and some on defense and definitely on offense for us. He does a good job of helping out our other backs with their job as well. He can be vocal, but he likes to be low-key and help our guys be successful that way.”
Walker has offers from The Citadel and Campbell with several other schools tracking his progress closely. He hopes a huge senior season helps his recruitment along.
“Hopefully through the season there will be a couple of more schools showing interest after they see what I can do,” Walker said.
River Bluff 2019 football schedule
Aug. 23 at Fort Mill
Aug. 30 Richland Northeast
Sept. 6 Pelion
Sept. 13 at Lugoff-Elgin
Sept. 20 Irmo
Sept. 27 Gilbert
Oct. 4 Bye
Oct. 11 at Dutch Fork
Oct. 18 at Chapin
Oct. 25 White Knoll
Nov. 1 Lexington