Walker Valley senior wide receiver Cooper Melton (31) goes up high to make the catch on a touchdown 32-yard pass from Kolten Gibson in the first quarter against Hixson inside “The Corral” Friday. Despite having to wait out long weather delays, the 10th-ranked Mustangs stampeded past the Wildcats by a 59-7 tally. (Banner Photo: Paul Pruett)
It took more than five hours, but when the Walker Valley Mustangs finally walked off the field at 12:25 Saturday morning, the time spent was well worth the effort.
With a 21-0 lead on the scoreboard, Walker Valley holed up in the field house just before the first snap of the second quarter for nearly three hours as storms and lightning slowly eased its way out of the area. After the delay, the Mustangs returned to business and finished their demolition of the visiting Hixson Wildcats, 59-7.
“That's more like it,” said an exhausted Mustangs coach Glen Ryan. “Last year, we kind of sputtered around with this bunch. The guys came out and played, with all the delays and everything else, they stayed focused and I'm proud of them.”
Special teams were a big concern for the Mustangs coming into Friday's matchup with the Wildcats, but a readjustment during preparation paid off in a big way when Mason Oran blocked Hixson's first possession setting the Mustangs up at the Wildcats' 32-yard line. Walker Valley quarterback Kolten Gibson connected for 15 yards with Bryce Nunnelly on a swing pass to the right side. Gibson handed the ball to Alex King for seven yards and on the fourth play of the drive put the ball in King's hands again. The Walker Valley senior running back followed the Mustangs offensive line the final seven yards into the end zone for the first score of the night. Sam Gibson made it 7-0 with the point after.
“We made some changes in special teams. We worked on correcting mistakes. Week 1 to Week 2 is where you are going to see your biggest jump and I felt like our guys came through tonight and did a good job,” said Ryan.
After forcing another punt from Hixson, The Mustangs took one play, a 32 yard Kolten Gibson to Cooper Melton connection that put the Mustangs on top 14-0 with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
A third Wildcats punt led to a third Walker Valley TD when King carried the final 11 yards of the six-play drive to make it a 21-0 game with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
King led the Mustangs with 77 yards on 12 carries. Kolten Gibson called his own number seven times for 35 yards and Noah Davis made the most of his single carry with a 35-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“This is exactly what I wanted to see. I wanted to see our football team come out and click on all cylinders. I felt like we did a pretty good job of that tonight. We've just got to keep working and keep plugging away,” Ryan said of the offensive effort.
The Mustangs put together 482 yards of offense while holding Hixson to 199.
Just before the first snap of the second quarter, the teams were pulled off the field and sent to the locker rooms for a lengthy lightning delay. After the stoppage of an hour and 45 minutes on top of a late start, play resumed at 11 p.m. With Hixson in possession at its own 39. The Wildcats moved to the Walker Valley 37 where the drive stalled and a bad snap on a field goal attempt gave the Mustangs another chance on offense.
The Mustangs moved the ball to the Hixson 14-yard line where back-to-back Wildcat penalties set Kolten Gibson and company up with a first-and-goal at the 2. From there, Gibson took the snap from center and scampered across the goal line where Gibson's PAT made it a 28-0 game.
The Wildcats broke the shutout with a 74-yard drive on their next possession to make it a 28-7 game.
The Mustangs answered, marching to the Hixson 11-yard line where Kolten Gibson split the uprights with a 29-yard field goal to put the Mustangs on top 31-7 as time ran out in the first half.
The Mustangs picked up where they left off after the shortened halftime to move 80 yards in 12 plays as the game moved into Saturday morning eight minutes into the third quarter. Gibson put the finishing touch on the drive with a 3-yard keeper that gave the Mustangs a 37-3 lead.
After a Hixson punt, Kolten Gibson and Nunnelly wasted no time putting the Mustangs out front 45-7 with a 78-yard TD toss from Gibson to his senior wide receiver. A couple of nifty juke moves toward midfield and Nunnelly won the foot race to the end zone with 5:45 to go in the third quarter. Gibson put the Mustangs out front 45-7 with the PAT.
“(We were) just a little off, just a little bit off (on passing timing), but more so after the delay. Early on we were hitting pretty good. After the delay we were a little rusty,” Ryan said of the passing attack which produced 266 yards for the Mustangs. “But if that was the worst thing that happened that's not bad, because we weren't too far off on too much stuff.”
The 38-point lead set in motion a continuous clock the rest of the way.
Walker Valley opened the fourth with the second line of Mustangs opposite the Hixson offense. The young herd quickly proved its worth when Davis snagged a Wildcats pitch and raced 30 yards untouched to paydirt, where Gibson made it a 52-7 game.
Kolten Gibson capped off the night for the Mustangs on Walker Valley's final score on a 36 yard carry for the TD. The Gibson PAT gave the Mustangs a 59-7 victory margin at the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“I'm proud of the guys. I'm proud of the coaches getting them ready to play. Now we've got to put this one behind us and get ready for McMinn,” Ryan said of the night's effort.
“We got an opportunity to put some young guys in, and they got a big stop and then a score. It was a total team effort tonight. I was real happy for these guys, they worked hard this week.”
The Mustangs open region play on the road Friday in Athens against the 1-1 McMinn County Cherokees.
“We've got a huge, huge game coming up against McMinn. That's a team that has always gotten us. We're playing there and that's always a tough place to play. We've got our work cut out for us this week, but tonight was definitely a good start toward getting ready for that first region game,” said Ryan.
MUSTANGS 59, WILDCATS 7
Hixson 0 7 0 0 — 7
Walker Valley 21 10 14 14 — 59
WV — King 7 run (Sam Gibson kick), 6:19
WV — Cooper Melton 32 pass from Kolten Gibson (S. Gibson kick), 4:38
WV — King 11 run (S. Gibson kick), 0:58
WV — K. Gibson 3 run (S. Gibson kick), 7:48
H — Ratcliff 2 run (kick), 2:17
WV — S. Gibson 29 field goal, 0:1.1
WV — K. Gibson 3 run (S. Gibson kick), 8:38
WV — Bryce Nunnelly 78 pass from K. Gibson (S. Gibson kick), 5:45
WV — Noah Davis 30 yard interception (S. Gibson kick), 11:27
WV — Davis 35 run (Charlie Swafford kick), 1:36
First downs H 13 WV 19
Rushes-Yards H 47-174 WV 24-162
Passing H 25 WV 266
Total yards 199 428
Comp-Att-Int H 3-6-1 WV 10-17-0
Punts-Avg. H 3-29.3 WV 0-0
Fumbles-Lost H 2-0 WV 1-0
Penalties-yards H 14-85 WV 8-82
King 12-77 2 TDs,
Davis 1-35 TD,
K. Gibson 7-35 2 TDs,
Nolan Cawood 1-5,
Mason Oran 2-4
K. Gibson 10-17-266 2 TDs
Nunnelly 2-92 TD
Zach Eslinger 4-46
Cooper Melton 2-36 TD
Hixson 0-2; Walker Valley 1-1