Walker turning back the clocks

Walker turning back the clocks

CERRO GORDO — Nick Walker has some trouble keeping to himself when he steps out into the Cerro Gordo and Bement communities.

Someone always spots him, it seems, from across the bar or waiting in line to pay at Casey's General Store. He jokes with his wife about how fans pepper him with questions — sometimes suggestions — about his job leading the Broncos. Not that he minds much.

"It doesn't fly under the radar," said the second-year leader of Cerro Gordo/Bement football co-op program.

Fans now recognize Walker as the leader on the sidelines, but some still remember him in pads when he marched the Broncos to the second round of the Class 1A playoffs as the senior quarterback in 1999.

The News-Gazette All-Area first-teamer led his team to a 9-2 ledger in his final season, passing for 2,011 yards and 23 touchdowns.

When Walker brings up his time leading the program with his players, the history lesson isn't a puff of the chest. Very little of it has to do with him actually. He instead draws upon the past as a means of reviving old traditions abandoned in the years since.

"The traditions in Cerro Gordo and Bement both have run for a long time and we got away from those," Walker said. "I think people were excited when I got (the job) because they knew that one of the things was changing the culture and, in doing that, bringing back some of the old traditions."

Traditions such as Thursday Meals, where every Bronco hangs back after practice and chows down with his teammates and coaches. Walker wants his boys eating well and relaxing before game day, which he said wouldn't be possible without help and cooperation from the parents.

Football camp in the summer is also back along with Saturday practices, which gives the coaches more time to work with the JV players while the varsity squad watches film.

"Getting back to the basics and having a good time with the kids again," Walker said.

To do that, Walker called out two specific groups of players — seniors and freshmen — in his first meeting as head coach last season. He told his first class of seniors that the group would be the first responsible for turning the program around and pointed in the direction they wanted.

Then he looked at his freshmen.

"And you're going to change the culture," Walker remembered telling them. "By the time you're done, the culture will be different."

One year later, Walker said the Broncos are farther along than he expected. Still not quite there, but "it's not going to happen overnight."

His inaugural group of seniors, including starting quarterback Tim Winters, finished 4-5 and one game shy of the playoffs.

Seventeen new seniors take their place, including leading rushers John Conner and Brady Greenwood as well as leading receiver Matthew Guffey, who also led the Broncos in tackles (76) and interceptions (six) last season.

Linemen Dylan Upton, Carter Davenport and Richie Hicks also fill out both of the Broncos lines with a stout senior core, helping protect new starting quarterback Ethan Mann under center beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at Warrensburg-Latham.

As for those freshmen?

"I think we've come a long ways," Walker said, "but we've still got a ways to go."

Walker doesn't dodge when someone calls out his name in public. He may not always want to spend time breaking down his Broncos — and he certainly doesn't have all the answers — but these people are their fans. Their neighbors.

So, he hopes for their trust and gives them his honest expectation.

"We should be a playoff team this year," he said.

CERRO GORDO/BEMENT SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Aug. 24 at Warrensburg-Latham 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 vs. Shelbyville 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Oblong/Hutsonville/Palestine 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Decatur Lutheran/Decatur Christian 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Arcola 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 vs. Argenta-Oreana 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. ALAH 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Sangamon Valley/Tri-City 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 vs. Villa Grove/Heritage 7 p.m.

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