Mustangs Trample Raiders

 

Walker Valley Running Back Alex King pushes his way past Blue Raiders’ defender Taddarius Brown (14) to the Cleveland 3-yard line as Skyler Davis (1) moves in to assist in the first quarter Thursday, at Cleveland High School. (Banner Photo Richard Roberts)

 

After Thursday night, it seems as if the Walker Valley Mustangs can now be referred to as the Walker Valley “Water Steeds.

 

The Mustangs flourished in the rain and muck, while the Cleveland Blue Raiders seemed bogged down in the 34-0 win for the northern Bradley County school, in a game that was called with just more than three minutes left in the third quarter due to the weather.

 

“That’s two weeks in a row that we’ve showed up and played football like we should,” Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan declared. “The team is starting to really gel and come together and we’re playing really good defense right now. And the offense is playing more relaxed and doing the things that they need to do. Everyone is having fun and enjoying the ride right now.”

 

The win pushed the Mustangs to a .500 overall record at 3-3 and gives them a 1-1 Region 4-5A record. The Raiders are 3-4 overall and now 1-2 in the region.

 

Leading the charge for Walker Valley was junior running back Alex King, who proved unstoppable by Cleveland’s defense. He had 180 yards and three touchdowns on 20 attempts, as well as 67 yards on two receptions, which included a catch-and-run for 54 yards and a TD.

 

“Alex had 180-some yards rushing, another 50-some in the air and had a nice game again,” Ryan said of his star running back.

 

For the season, King has racked up 596 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has 212 receiving yards and a touchdown.

 

The Mustang coach was also impressed with quarterback Kolten Gibson’s decision-making as well as the efforts of receivers Cooper Melton, who had six receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown, Zach Eslinger and Bryce Nunnelly.

 

“Our offensive line is playing really well and creating holes for Alex to run behind as well,” Ryan added. “It’s been a whole team effort these past couple weeks.”

 

For the first time since 2008 and the first time in Ryan’s career at Walker Valley, the Mustangs were able to defeat the Raiders.

 

Thursday night also marked the first time Walker Valley has ever shut out Cleveland.

 

“I think they are starting to play with confidence now and are playing together,” Ryan stated. “We’ve got a little more depth now from playing guys earlier in the year. We put ourselves with our backs up against a wall, dropping a couple games early on, and it’s forced us to come out and play tough down the stretch to make the playoffs.”

 

In total, Walker Valley had 435 yards of offense, 243 by air and 192 on foot. Cleveland put up only 106 yards, 58 rushing and 48 passing.

 

Not much, if anything, went right for the Blue Raiders in the weather-shortened game.

 

“If there was something that could’ve gone wrong, it did,” Raider head coach Scott Cummings lamented. “We can’t turn the ball over and expect to win. The rain was pouring for Walker Valley, too, and they didn’t turn the ball over.”

 

In total, Cleveland had seven fumbles, three of which were recovered by Walker Valley. Adding insult to injury, the Mustangs were able to capitalize on those three turnovers and turn them into touchdowns on resulting plays.

 

“Defense (recovered) three fumbles (Thursday), and last week we had four interceptions and a fumble or two. They’re creating turnovers and being opportunistic and getting on the ball when its loose,” the Walker Valley coach declared. “I’m real proud of our defense these past couple weeks. They’ve been picking up on the things that they have been working on with Coach Smith, Coach Craig and Coach Swafford, who have done a great job of getting them ready these past few weeks.”

 

Perhaps the most painful self-inflicted wound for the Raiders came during their first drive of the night.

 

Having marched their way from their own 24 to the Mustangs’ 2-yard line, a Cleveland fumble was recovered at the 5-yard-line by Walker Valley.

 

Taking over at 7:31 in the first quarter, it took the Mustangs three minutes to get their first touchdown. Sitting at their own 31 on a two-and-10 play, King broke free and ran the ball 69 yards to the end zone.

 

In the second quarter, King reached paydirt two more times, thanks to a 3-yard run at 6:10 and a 54-yard pass with 53 seconds left from Gibson.

 

It took Walker Valley only 30 more seconds to get its fourth TD of the night.

 

Cleveland fumbled the ball on the kick return and the Mustangs recovered it on the Raider 20-yard line.

 

“At some point we have to make those plays, and we’re just struggling to make them. I don’t really know what to say about it, it’s frustrating for all of us. We’re not going to give up on these kids and are going to continue to work them, and work hard as coaches,” Cummings stated.

 

Just two plays later, Gibson connected with Melton for an 18-yard touchdown with just 23 seconds left in the first half.

 

King ran in his final TD of the night at 7:10 in the third quarter.

 

Starting out with the ball on their own 30, the efforts of King and Gibson, who connected with Nunnelly, Melton and Eslinger during the drive, put the Mustangs just six yards away from the goal line in 12 plays. King finished out the 70-yard drive, in which he accumulated 45 yards.

 

Both Walker Valley and Cleveland continue region play on the road next week. The Raiders travel to Rhea County on Oct. 9, while the Mustangs are at Soddy-Daisy.

 

GAME SUMMARY

(Game called on account of weather with 3:03 left, third quarter)

Walker Valley 7 20 7 — 34

Cleveland 0 0 0 — 0

 

First Quarter

WV — Alex King 69 run (Sam Gibson kick), 4:56

 

Second Quarter

WV — King 3 run (Gibson kick), 6:10

WV — King 54 pass from Kolten Gibson (S. Gibson kick), 0:53

WV — Cooper Melton 18 pass from Gibson (kick failed), 0:23

 

Third Quarter

King 6 run (S. Gibson kick), 7:10

 

(Game called on account of weather with 3:03 left, third quarter)

 

Team stats

First downs Walker Valley 16  Cleveland 7

Rushes-yards Walker Valley 24-192 Cleveland 22-58

Passing yards Walker Valley 243 Cleveland 48

Total yards Walker Valley 435 Cleveland 106

Comp-Att-Int Walker Valley13-18-0 Cleveland 2-7-0

Punts-Avg Walker Valley 0-0 Cleveland 3-34.3

Fumbles-Lost Walker Valley 2-1 Cleveland 7-3

Penalties Walker Valley 6-60 Cleveland 3-25

 

Highlights

Rushing:

Alex King 20-180, 3 TDs (WV) 

Keegan Jones 10-61 (C).

 

Passing:

Kolten Gibson 12-18-0, 243 yards (WV)

JaShawn Hill 2-6-0, 48 (C)

 

Receiving:

Cooper Melton 6-99, TD, (WV)

Alex King 2-67

Bryce Nunnelly 4-51 (WV)

 

Records:

Walker Valley 3-3, 1-1 Region 4-5A

Cleveland 3-4, 1-2 Region 4-5A.

 

 

 

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