Walker Valley's Alex King (33) scores against the Hixson Wildcats in this August 2015 file photo. Head coach Glen Ryan said the Mustangs had a very good spring camp and are excited for the 2016 season. (Banner Photo, Lynnae Roberts)
After a disappointing loss to open the 2015 football season, the Walker Valley Mustangs were forced to regain their composure, battling to a frustrating 4-6 finish after hoping for a much better showing. The Mustangs showed enough in the final two games against very strong programs to again allow head coach Glen Ryan to set the sights high for the 2016 season.
“Last year we had high expectations and we fell short. We just didn’t quite get it done defensively. We scored plenty of points, but we struggled to stop people. I think the Bradley game affected us. Losing that game sent us spiraling down and we didn’t know how to react to that,” Ryan said of the opening defeat.
“Because our expectations were so high it took a lot of wind out of our sails, and it took us a few weeks to kind of come out of it. But the way we finished, losing by a touchdown to Rhea County and taking Ooltewah to double overtime — two teams that reached the quarterfinals — there is a lot of excitement.”
The Mustangs — minus some 10 athletes who were busy with other sports — spent spring camp evaluating young talent and looking for those who will take the initiative to step up and fill gaps left by departing seniors from last year’s team.
“Spring football for us, because we have so many kids in other sports now, is trying to create depth, getting young guys caught up and seeing which ones are going to be able to help us in the fall. It’s also trying to get better but also create depth in positions so we’re not so thin. We had a good spring and got a lot of good things done,” said Ryan.
The Mustangs wound up the spring camp with a scrimmage game against Ravenwood in Brentwood. Admittedly, the team has far to go but Ryan was pleased with what he saw from Walker Valley against the Raptors.
“We scrimmaged them and came out on top in the scrimmage. We still have a long way to go, we made a lot of mistakes, but we had a good showing. There were a lot of positives coming out of spring camp,” the Mustangs’ coach said.
“I felt like the way it ended, the guys are excited and it has carried over into our summer program. We had a good first week so far with our summer program. We finished today after a great day. There is a lot of excitement around right now about the upcoming season. Hopefully we can stay healthy and continue to build depth and build the program up.”
The good news for the Mustangs is the team will return a majority of the roster from last season. Certainly, there will be holes to fill — particularly on the defensive side of the ball — but for the most part experience should not be lacking. A large group of incoming freshmen could also produce some gap fillers for the team. Some 25 young Colts showed up for the first day of summer workouts eager to take the first steps to becoming full-fledged Mustangs.
“We’ve got pretty much everybody back. We’ve got some guys we’ve got to replace on defense. We didn’t lose a lot on defense, but we did lose a few good guys,” Ryan said.
“We are going to have somewhere between 30 to 35 freshmen. That’s a good number. They are not a bad looking group. There are some pretty athletic guys who can run pretty good. We’ve got to keep building with those guys and keep building for our future. We’ve got a very talented group of seniors and a talented junior quarterback and our line is getting better. The key for us is going to be defense. Our offseason so far is getting better defensively.”