Walker Valley's Cooper Melton (31) attempts to pick off a pass in the end zone to Cleveland's Micaleous Elder (7) during Friday's Region 4-5A rivalry game at "The Corral." The Mustangs claimed a 68-36 victory in the record-setting showdown. (Photo: Dr. Jeffrey Carson GoStangs Go)
If they were intending to reenact the 135th anniversary of the shootout at the O.K. Corral, Walker Valley was about a month too early.
Nevertheless, Sept. 30, 2016 will now hold special historical meaning for the Mustang faithful as “The Corral” hosted a historical shootout of its very own.
A total of 104 points were put up on the scoreboard during Friday’s Region 4-5A rivalry game between Walker Valley and Cleveland, with the Mustangs taking the prize with a 68-36 win over the Blue Raiders. Those 68 points are the most ever scored by a Walker Valley team in a game.
“I’m glad we scored all those points, but I would have liked to have kept them from scoring all of theirs. Good gravy they have some speed,” Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan declared. “I was proud of our guys, they just kept fighting and were resilient. We gave up one touchdown in the second half and our offense just kept putting points on the board.”
The Mustangs offense was most certainly functioning on overdrive Friday, with junior quarterback Kolten Gibson and senior wide receiver and UTC commit Bryce Nunnelly helping to shatter some records along the way.
Gibson completed 29-of-39 pass attempts for a total of 420 yards, which is a new program record for most passing yards in a game. The junior’s night started off with him running in for the Mustangs’ first three touchdowns, a 28-yard run a little over two minutes into the game, a 26-yard run with 6:20 left in the first quarter and a six-yard run nearly three minutes later. Gibson also threw five touchdown passes in the offensively charged game.
“Kolten just keeps getting better and better,” Ryan stated. “He’s got a great supporting cast around him and has a lot of weapons to throw to.”
Nunnelly proved to be one of his QB’s favorite weapons of the night with a total of 12 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns, which is the new record for most receiving yards in a game. The receiver got his first touchdown with 1:38 left in the first quarter off of a 41-yard pass from Gibson. He followed that up with a catch for the two-point conversion. Nunnelly’s second TD came with 4:54 left in the third quarter, this time from a quick five-yard toss.
Senior Cooper Melton had six catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns as well, a 16-yard pass to start off the second quarter and then a nine-yard pass with 6:14 left in the first half.
Walker Valley’s final passing TD came with 1:11 left in the third quarter off of a 35-yard pass to a freshly-returned Zeke Westfield, who had spent most of the season recovering from a hand injury.
“Zeke played a little bit last week, but this was his first game back in where he had a full week of practice. It’s good to have him back, because it gives us a bit more depth at wide receiver,” Ryan commented.
Depth at receiver has been the Mustangs’ least concern this season.
“We’ve got Cooper Melton, Bryce Nunnelly, Zach Eslinger, Tucker Mendenhall and now we’ve got Zeke back,” Ryan said.
Eslinger had six catches for 66 yards, while Westfield finished with a total of 43 yards from two catches.
The Raiders were able to slow down the Mustangs’ run game for much of the first half, but Alex King found a way to break through their defense in the second half.
“Alex is running the ball hard,” the Walker Valley coach said. “Early on they made it hard on him, but then he started breaking some runs.”
King scored the first touchdown of the second half for his team on a four-yard run with 6:53 left in the third quarter. He also scored the lone TD of the fourth quarter just 41 seconds in. The senior running back finished with 118 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
The night proved to be historic for the Cleveland program as well, but in a much less positive way.
Walker Valley’s 68 points are the most that have ever been scored on a Blue Raider team, as well as their second year coach, with the previous record coming in a 55-35 loss to McCallie in 2013. Friday was only the sixth time in Cleveland’s 52-year history they have given up 50 or more points as well.
“I’ve never had 68 points scored on me, so it’s really a hard thing to accept. It’s not because of a lack of effort by our coaches or a lack of effort by our kids – a lot of credit goes to Walker Valley, that offense is really, really good. This is the senior class that they’ve been waiting on and those seniors execute and are very well seasoned on offense. There’s not much else you can say about it, they made plays and we didn’t,” Cleveland coach Scott Cummings commented.
With the odds stacked against them due to their total offensive overhaul two weeks ago, the Raiders were still able to put up 36 points of their own and keep the game close until the midway point of the third quarter.
“On offense, we did some good things for Skyler (Davis) playing quarterback for two weeks. Obviously, if the score was a little different we wouldn’t have been putting him in situations to throw interceptions, but other than that, he’s doing really well,” Cummings said. “We just have to continue to grind and press — at the end of the rainbow there really is a treasure, we just have to get there — we’ll be ok.”
“The crazy thing is, and I know it sounds crazy because we just lost 68-36, but it’s really not as bad as it seems. We’re not that bad on defense, it’s just our worst nightmare kind of came true tonight and we got exposed a bit in some areas,” the Cleveland coach added. “I’ve been saying that everyone knows about our quarterback dilemma, but what people don’t understand is how that affects the rest of our team. JaShawn (Hill) was playing great corner, we had to move him to quarterback and then he gets hurt. We lost a great defensive back there.”
Davis, who got his second game as QB under his belt, completed 5-of-13 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. The Mustangs were able to pick off a total of five passes in the game. The receiver turned quarterback scored Cleveland’s first touchdown of the night on a seven -yard run at the midway point of the first quarter.
Romeo Wykle, who is now playing on both sides of the ball, proved to be a reliable target for Davis. Wykle had four catches for 98 yards and a 65-yard touchdown with 2:50 left in the first quarter. Wykle also ran in for two points following Davis’ initial TD.
“Romeo is always going to fight. Romeo should have a chance to go play college ball — he’s that good,” Cummings said.
With Cleveland’s passing game limited, running backs Micaleous Elder and Keegan Jones found a way to break open some runs of their own.
Elder had a total of 62 yards and two TD’s on nine carries. Both of the sophomore running back’s touchdowns came in the second quarter, the first a 16-yard run nearly two minutes in and the second from a three-yard run with 39 seconds left in the half.
Jones scored on a 25-yard run just a minute into the third quarter as part of his 102 yards on 15 carries. The junior running back’s touchdown cut Walker Valley’s lead to 43-36, but it proved to be the last time the Raiders would reach the paydirt.
When it was all said and done, Walker Valley had 217 yards rushing and 428 passing for a total of 645 yards. The Mustangs had seven penalties for 55 yards. Cleveland had 172 yards rushing and 106 yards through the air for a total of 278 yards. The Raiders had 13 penalties for 125 yards.
Walker Valley has a short week to prepare for Soddy-Daisy, as the game will be played at “The Corral” on Thursday. Cleveland hosts Rhea County on Friday.
Cleveland 15 14 7 0 – 36
Walker Valley 29 14 18 7 – 68
WV – Kolten Gibson 28 run (Sam Gibson kick), 9:43
WV – K. Gibson 26 run (S. Gibson kick), 6:20
C – Skyler Davis 7 run (Romeo Wykle 2 pt. run), 6:05
WV – K. Gibson 6 run (S. Gibson kick), 3:08
C – Wykle 65 pass from Davis (Toren Beck kick), 2:50
WV – Bryce Nunnelly 41 pass from K. Gibson (K. Gibson to Nunnelly for 2 pt), 1:38
WV – Cooper Melton 16 pass from K. Gibson (kick failed), 11:56
C – Micaleous Elder 16 run (Beck kick), 10:07
WV – Melton 9 pass from K. Gibson (K. Gibson 2 pt run), 6:14
C – Elder 3 run (Beck kick), 0:39
C – Keegan Jones 25 run (Beck kick), 11:02
WV – Alex King 4 run (2 pt conversion failed), 6:53
WV – Nunnelly 5 pass from K. Gibson (2 pt. conversion failed), 4:54
WV – Zeke Westfield 35 pass from K. Gibson (2 pt. conversion failed), 1:11
WV – King 2 run (Charlie Swafford kick), 11:19
First Downs WV 26 C 12
Rushing yds WV 45-217 C 32-172
Passing yds WV 428 C 106
Comp-Att-Int WV 29-40-0 C 5-13-5
Total yds WV 645 C 278
Fumbles-Lost WV 1-1 C 3-2
Penalties WV 7-55 C 13-125
Rushing – Alex King 26-118 2 TDs, Kolten Gibson 12-92 3 TDs (WV); Keegan Jones 15-102 TD, Micaleous Elder 9-62 2 TDs (C).
Passing – Gibson 29-39-0, 420, 5 TDs; Noah Davis 1-1-0, 8 (WV); Skyler Davis 5-13-5, 106, TD.
Receiving – Bryce Nunnelly 12-206 2 TDs, Cooper Melton 6-97 2 TDs, Zach Eslinger 6-66, Zeke Westfield 2-43 TD (WV); Romeo Wykle 4-98 TD (C).
Records – Walker Valley 4-2, 1-1 Region 4-5A; Cleveland 4-3, 1-2 Region 4-5A
Walker Valley junior quarterback Kolten Gibson (3) crosses the goal line for one of his three rushing touchdowns in Friday evening’s 68-36 stampede over Cleveland at “The Corral.” The junior signal caller also threw for five TDs and 420 yards in a record-setting performance. (Banner Photo: George Norkus)