Walker Valley defensive back Mason Oran reaches in to knock the ball away from Ooltewah’s Joseph Norwood as Skyler Swafford (40) closes in to help Friday, at Ooltewah. (Photo by Paul Pruett)
OOLTEWAH — It was a “win or go home” scenario for the Walker Valley Mustangs Friday night when they took on the Owls of Ooltewah, but unfortunately things didn’t go the Mustang’s way after 48 minutes had ticked off the clock.
The game was decided in two overtime periods after Walker Valley tried to win the game on a two-point conversion, which they came up short on and lost 45-44.
Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan revealed Thursday what it would take to stay close with the No. 8 team in the state, and it turns out he was right.
“Its bulls locking horns — their strength is their defense, where our strength is our offense. It’s going to (come down to) who wins that battle,” Ryan stated earlier in the week.
Coming into the matchup, if the ‘Stangs won they would grab the last playoff spot for the 4-5A region and knock out Cleveland due to their head-to-head win earlier this season. Ooltewah will now face Clinton in the first round of the playoffs, and that game will take place at home for the Owls due to clinching home-field advantage after their thrilling 2 OT win Friday.
Walker Valley came out doing exactly what was needed to win on the Owls “Senior Night,” when quarterback Kolten Gibson kept the ball on a fake to running back Alex King and took it 16 yards to go up 7-0 on their first drive. It wasn’t until 1:16 in the first quarter when Ooltewah finally put up their first points of the night, which came off a Rashun Freeman 11-yard run. Freeman ended up rushing for five TDs and 96 yards on the night.
Once the second quarter of action started, the temperature dropped, but the Owls were just starting to heat up. Ooltewah only scored once off a Freeman run, but they held Walker Valley scoreless and forced two turnovers in the red-zone.
The Blue and Gold were forced to punt on their first drive in the second half, which opened up for an easy drive by the Owls and led to another Freeman 5-yard TD run. At this point it wasn’t looking too great for Walker Valley as they now trailed 21-7 with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Alex King moved the ‘Stangs down the field on the ensuing drive with two big blasts up the middle. It led to a fourth and goal, which was converted successfully by a 6-yard pass from quarterback Kolten Gibson to Cooper Melton. This catch not only edged Walker Valley closer, but also moved Melton to the all-time Mustang leader in yards (1,158), receptions (85), and touchdowns (14).
At the start of the fourth quarter, Walker Valley’s Sam Gibson attempted to make it closer with a 31-yard field goal, but was unsuccessful when an Ooltewah defender broke through the line and blocked the kick with 11:46 remaining. It was then Ooltewah’s turn to try and bleed out the clock and put up points. Instead of running some time off the clock, the Owls scored on a Cameron Turner 17-yard run just 87 seconds later, making it 28-14.
Looking on the outside in, Kolten Gibson linked up with Bryce Nunnelly on a 38-yard reception that cut the Owls’ lead to only seven with just 8:17 to go. With some momentum and energy swinging back to the Mustangs, their defense came up huge when Skylar Swafford recovered a fumble on the next drive, and set up their offense with great field position at the Ooltewah 38.
Kolten Gibson started to make many plays with his feet and broke down the Owls defense, which hadn’t been done much this year by opposing teams. Gibson ended up scrambling 15 yards to tie up the game 28-28 with five minutes left to play.
Even with the Walker Valley score, it seemed as if everyone knew the Red and White were going to put more points on the board to go ahead.
This is exactly what they did when Aleksander Toser knocked in a clutch 23-yard field goal with only 1:34 on the clock. Wasting no time, Kolten Gibson managed the clock and led his team down into field goal range with five seconds remaining to setup a Sam Gibson 25-yard field goal that was good.
With the game tied up 31-31, it felt just like it should when two teams have playoff implications that depend on the game’s outcome. There were only three total plays in the first overtime period, which led to TD’s and extra points by both squads to send it to a second OT.
Ooltewah got the ball first and Freeman ran it in on a third-and-3 to give the Owls a lead once again 45-38. On the Mustangs’ first play in the overtime period, Alex King ran it 10 yards for the touchdown.
After calling a timeout right away, it was clear to see that Walker Valley head coach, Glen Ryan, wanted to attempt the two-point conversion and get the “W.” Instead, King came up short on the run and Ooltewah took the game 45-44 in what seemed to be the game of the year.
“That was the decision we made at that point to go for the win right there, we are on the road, so just get the win. Unfortunately, they made a play when they had to and we fell a few inches short,” Ryan explained.
The loss put the Mustangs out of playoff contention, but Coach Ryan was very proud of his team and the fight they gave at Jim Jarvis field. It has to be noted that many of the big weapons for Walker Valley will be returning next season and this game will be something to look back on in the progression for success.
“I’m super proud of our kids, they played a tremendous football game against a very good football team tonight. It is something we have to take and build on this offseason, and come out next season and be better for it,” Ryan reiterated.
Kolten Gibson’s numbers were about as good as you can get from a quarterback, which tallied up to 32-for-44 for 319 yards passing and 17 rush attempts for 109 yards. He also accounted for five total TD’s on the evening.
“He (Gibson) is a great player, but we’ve got several and many good weapons. Our offensive line grew up tonight and really made a big step against a stingy, stingy defense over there. It’s one of those things where you hate losing games like this, but at the same time there is a lot for us to build on and that is what our football team is going to do,” Ryan concluded.
OWLS 45, MUSTANGS 44
Walker Valley 7 0 7 17 13 — 44
Ooltewah 7 7 7 0 14 — 45
WV-Kolten Gibson 16 run (Sam Gibson kick), 9:08
O — Rashun Freeman 12 run (Aleksander Toser kick), 1:16
O — Freeman 5 run (Toser kick), 10:28
O — Freeman 7 run (Toser kick), 7:48
WV — Cooper Melton 31 pass from K. Gibson (S. Gibson kick), 2:38
O- Cameron Turner 20 run (Toser kick), 10:14
WV- Bryce Nunnelly 38 pass from K. Gibson (S. Gibson kick), 8:17
O- Toser 23 field goal, 1:34
WV- S. Gibson 25 field goal, 0:05
WV — K. Gibson 8 run (S. Gibson kick)
O — Freeman 10 run (Toser kick)
O — Freeman 2 run (Toser kick)
WV — Alex King 10 run (run failed)
First downs WV 30 O 20
Rushes-yards WV 43-213 O 39-196
Passing yards WV 304 O 215
Total yards WV 517 O 411
Comp-Att-Int WV 29-40-1 O 23-37-0
Fumbles-Lost WV 1-1 O 1-1
Penalties WV 9-60 O 9-85
K. Gibson 17-105
K. Gibson 29-40-1, 304 yards (WV)
London Elrod 23-37-0, 231 yards (O)
Zach Eslinger 7-91
Blake Smith 5-55
Scottie Strickland 7-47
Kobe Jones 2-38
Walker Valley 4-6, 2-4 Region 4-5A
Ooltewah 8-2, 5-1 Region 4-5A