Tucker Mendenhall (back) celebrates his 37-yard touchdown with Cooper Melton (31) at the 2015 Chick-fil-A Jamboree at Finley Stadium. Banner Photo by Delaney Walker
CHATTANOOGA — Walker Valley was the lone Bradley County team able to make the trip down to Finley Stadium Saturday night, for the 17th annual Chick-fil-A Jamboree and the Mustangs took the opportunity to display some of the offensive prowess that has been much talked about in the offseason.
By the end of the 20-minute running clock, it was Walker Valley that came away with a 14-0 win over East Ridge.
“Offensively, we did a good job. We kind of got hemmed up down there, but we came out and gave ourselves some room. We ran the ball well and threw it well — we did some good things, we’ve just got to keep getting better,” stated head coach Glen Ryan.
The Mustangs’ skill players didn’t disappoint, as running backs Avery Jones and Alex King were able to get some key yardage and receivers Bryce Nunnelly and Tucker Mendenhall sprinted their way into the end zone on 57-yard and 37-yard receptions, respectively.
“They’re awesome and so athletic — it’s easy to rely on them,” Mustang quarterback Kolten Gibson said of his receivers.
East Ridge started out with the ball on its own 32 yard line, but was unable to break past Walker Valley’s 33 due to a series of costly fumbles and tackles for loss.
The Pioneers’ most costly yardage loss came on their next-to-last play of the possession. Almost missing the snap, the East Ridge quarterback was sacked by Ben Clark for a loss of 8 yards.
After the ensuing punt, Walker Valley took over from its 1-yard-line.
On the opening drive, Jones carried the ball eight yards, with Nunnelly getting the first down on the next play, thanks to a 15-yard reception.
Another 15-yard reception followed for Nunnelly, who made it to the pay dirt two plays later on a 57-yard reception.
While Ryan felt his squad’s defense got off to a slow start, he was pleased that they were able to pick things continued.
East Ridge was only able to come up with five plays during their second possession before being forced to punt on fourth and 9.
“Defensively we were a little sluggish early, in that first series. We picked it up after that and did some things. That’s to be expected a little bit, when you’re playing someone and you don’t have time to watch film and don’t know what they do. They adjusted as they went and that was key — they kept [East Ridge] out of the end zone,” Ryan said.
On their next possession, Jones got things started with a 9-yard run.
Gibson connected with Zach Eslinger and then got the ball to Tucker Mendenhall on the next play for a 37-yard touchdown.
The sophomore quarterback, who took over QB duties three games into the 2014 season, came into this year’s jamboree looking calm, poised and ready to lead the Mustangs into battle when they take on Bradley Central in Thursday’s opening game.
“I feel very confident and I think we’re ready.” Gibson declared. “I want us to make the playoffs and go deep.”
Overall, Coach Ryan felt Saturday’s outing proved beneficial for the Mustangs.
“I think it was a good dress rehearsal, but we still have some things that have to worked on,” he commented. “We’re expecting a really good Bradley team to roll in on Thursday, and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”