Zac Eslinger races past a Hixson Wildcat during Friday Nights 42-32 victory.
(Photo by Nikki Swafford)
While it was host Hixson that featured its running game most in Friday night's high school football game against Walker Valley, it was the Mustangs that ran it well when needed most.
Alex King broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown run with 7:10 to play that gave Walker Valley a three-point lead. Then the Mustangs' next possession was a 44-yard drive on eight running plays that capped their 42-32 victory over the Wildcats.
King's 1-yard run ended that march with 1:16 remaining.
"I'll take those any time," Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan said of his team being able to keep the ball on the ground and score late before Bryce Nunnelly's interception with 39 seconds to play sealed it. "I'm an old-school coach. I like being able to run the ball down their throat."
The game started with Hixson (0-2) doing the straight-forward running, from an I-formation instead of the split-back set the Wildcats changed from after last week's loss at Marion County. They drove 70 yards, 75 counting a false-start penalty before the first play, on six consecutive running plays. The last was Myles Ratliff's 4-yarder for a touchdown, but a missed extra point left it 6-0.
Other than when it was 7-6, Hixson led most of the game. Its largest lead was 26-13.
The Wildcats led 26-20 at halftime despite committing 11 penalties for 95 yards. They ended up with 16 penalties for 131 yards.
Walker Valley was flagged seven times for 63 yards and lost two fumbles.
"I'll give our kids that. We didn't make those kinds of mistakes," Ryan said of Hixson's number of penalties. "But we were sloppy with the ball.
"It wasn't that long ago, if we played as sloppy as we did we'd get killed. We can't make a habit of it."
Hixson had a 307-188 edge in rushing yards, but Walker Valley (1-1) countered with a 265-10 advantage in passing with Kolten Gibson going 17-for-24. He also ran 59 yards for a TD.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.