Hunter Flowers throws a pass against the Greenfield-Northwestern Tigers.

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CARROLLTON - It’s fantastic to have a returning all-state wide receiver on your team, but that means opposing defenses know about that too and will take no chances.

Nathan Walker of the Carrollton Hawks so far has touched the ball 20 times through four games and still has managed seven touchdowns. However, he’s been limited due to his pedigree of what he accomplished last year being double-covered.

“I can tell you it was pretty aggravating not being open. I didn’t like it. I like getting the ball that’s for sure,” Walker said after the Hawks beat the Calhoun Warriors 50-0 in week three.

Last year Walker and quarterback Hunter Flowers established one of the best offensive duos in the state with 1,155 yards, 56 receptions, and 15 touchdowns. Overall Flowers threw for 2,250 yards and 34 touchdowns. There’s also the injured junior receiver Ethan Brannan who was poised to have to breakout year just like Walker last season. Brannan hasn’t officially been ruled out, but it is currently unknown if he’ll get to feature for the Hawks at all this year.

That’s all opened up the door for senior receiver Zach Flowers.

While Walker flourished in 2017, Flowers caught 11 passes with 281 yards and four touchdowns but averaged 25 yards per reception, which led the team.

Carrollton struggled offensively in their first two weeks losing to Triopia and Beardstown. Zach caught just two passes for 15 yards. However, the Hawks past two games have been much different. He’s been Hunter's most productive receiver with 12 catches and 195 yards.

Last week against the Greenfield-Northwestern Tigers, Zach had a career-high seven catches and 138 yards with a 51-yard touchdown reception to help the Hawks win 34-6. They’re now 2-2 and 2-0 in the WIVC South.

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“The blocks and holes were there, and I just ran it up the sidelines.” Zach Flowers said about his touchdown reception. “It’s been good. We know and run the routes. [I’ve] been open to catch the ball.”

“It’s awesome to knock them off. We’re their main rivals.” Zach Flowers said on beating Greenfield-NW. “Definitely better team-work for this game I noticed. We worked on a lot of things this week to improve.”

Hunter and Zach are cousins who have now started along with each other for two seasons. Hunter’s first career touchdown pass was Zach’s first catch and score on a 61-yard play.

Zach’s biggest play of his career was a 69-yard catch and run for a touchdown against the Madison Trojans in the first round of the playoffs last season. He made the catch at the 46-yard line of the Trojans, broke a tackle and then scampered to the end zone to cut the deficit to 28-22 early in the fourth quarter. The Hawks eventually won in overtime 36-34.

Hunter Flowers threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers last week while gaining a total of 348 yards and scored five touchdowns, including a 15-yard run. That’s the second straight game he’s collected over 300 total yards. He’s now thrown for 1,025 yards with ten touchdowns and seven interceptions while obtaining 1,218 total yards and 13 touchdowns.

Arguably his most dramatic touchdown so far, and maybe all season came last Friday against the Tigers. With the score knotted at 0-0 on a third down and 12 at the Hawks 19-yard line late in the first quarter, Flowers connected with Walker for an 81-yard score. However, a lot occurred at the line of scrimmage before Hunter ever threw the ball.

“I don’t know,” Flowers said with a laugh initially trying to describe the play. “I got flushed out to the right, and I saw the guys coming, and there was no one open downfield. So I thought maybe if I turned around it was free. I turned around, and there was one defender that I got out of the way of and then Nathan got off of his defender and was wide open. He did the rest.”

After starting out 0-2, Carrollton’s record is back at .500 with two consecutive blowout victories over their two biggest rivals, Calhoun and Greenfield-NW. They now look a better team and poised to carry their momentum into Winchester as they take on the West Central Cougars this Friday.

Hunter attributes his team’s newfound form due to playing against Triopia and Beardstown who share a combined 7-1 record and are both favored to make the playoffs. The Hawks were challenged in the trenches. Now they've learned and improved.

“The first games definitely challenged us a lot, and I think that’s what got us where we are right now,” Hunter Flowers said. “The physicality of those first two games helped us.”

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