Cleveland, Tenn. -- From beginning to end, DJ Kimpson carried the visiting McMinn County Cherokees to a 37-19 victory over the Walker Valley Mustangs.
Kimpson ammassed 262 rushing yards and three touchdowns on an outstanding 41 rushes as the Cherokees racked up nearly 450 yards on the ground.
"We knew he had to carry it a lot," McMinn County head coach Bo Cagle said. "I never would have known he would have ended up with that many carries. We had over 400 rushing yards in this game. I don't know if we have had that since I have been at McMinn."
Kimpson had a heightened load in Week 3 due to the absence of running mate Damiese Bradley, who Kimpson honored with both his play and by wearing Bradley's number.
"I kind of expected it because number six [Bradley] is out. That is why I am representing his number," Kimpson said. "I kind of expected it. I have to carry the team and stand up for him. Everything was dedicated to him tonight."
Kimpson's first touchdown of the night evened up the score at 7-7 a little over midway through the first quarter after the Mustangs scored on their third play from scrimmage as quarterback Kolten Gibson connected with Bryce Nunnelly for a 50-yard touchdown.
Gibson went on to complete 21-of-36 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
However, the three first-half touchdowns from Gibson to favorite targets Nunnelly, Cooper Melton and Tucker Mendenhall would not be enough to counter the steady rushing attack of the Cherokees led by Kimpson but aided by Xavier Abernathy and Andre Smith.
"Defense couldn't stop anybody," Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan said. "We didn't do a good job up front with our offensive line, and defensively we played poorly all night. They came out, took it to us and won the football game."
"Our offensive line did well," Craig said. "We got some different personnel in there, and I think the loss to Bradley made us look at ourselves really hard. We changed a little bit of what we were doing, and power football is probably where we are at right now."
Kimpson matched the Mustangs three-touchdown effort in the first half while Abernathy added a fourth on a 53-yard run around the edge to give the Cherokees a 27-19 advantage going into halftime.
"Our offensive line stepped up their game tonight," Kimpson said. "They understood what to do and did their assignments. We had a a few mistakes, but we had 100 percent effort to come back and rebuild it."
Scoring slowed for both teams in the second half as McMinn County's Smith scored the lone touchdown of the half to extend the Cherokee lead to 35-19 early in the fourth quarter.
While the rushing attack continued to work the clock in the second half, the Cherokee defense stiffened and held the Mustang offense scoreless in the second half after some minor adjustments during the break.
"We gave up 19 points in the first half and weren't covering very well in the first half," Craig said. "We cleaned up the secondary, and it was just technique stuff - simple stuff. Once we started covering them, the defensive line was able to get to the quarterback. That made a huge difference."
Labrandus Goley and Xayview Beckingham made their presence known in the Walker Valley backfield on multiple occasions. Goley record four sacks on Gibson forcing the Mustangs behind the sticks where the Walker Valley offense struggled much of the night.
The Cherokee defensive line finished the scoring recording a safety late in the game to make the final 37-19.
Both the Mustangs and Cherokees head back out of region play in Week 4 as Walker Valley hosts Coffee County and McMinn travels to Lenoir City.
McMinn County 13 14 0 10 37
Walker Valley 7 12 0 0 19
WV - Kolten Gibson 50 yard pass to Bryce Nunelly, 9:33
MC - DJ Kimpson 5 yard rush, 4:58
MC - DJ Kimpson 1 yard rush, 1:21
MC - DJ Kimpson 24 yard rush, 8:40
WV - Kolten Gibson 24 yard pass to Cooper Melton, 5:13
MC - Xavier Abernathy 53 yard rush, 4:10
WV - Kolten Gibson 20 yard pass to Tucker Mendenhall, 51.9
MC - Andre Smith 44 yard rush, 11:40
MC - Kolten Gibson sacked for a safety, :30
Contact Eric Sisson at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RCS_Eric