Walker Valley receiver Zeke Westfield (2) had three receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown Thursday night in the Mustangs’ 61-28 win over Region 4-5A opponent Soddy-Daisy. (Photo: Paul Pruett).
You wouldn’t think it by looking at the score, but Thursday’s Region 4-5A matchup between Walker Valley and Soddy-Daisy proved to be lackluster for head coach Glen Ryan.
The Mustangs dominated the Trojans in a 61-28 win, but the team’s performance was still found lacking by their coach.
“It was sloppy — We were very lethargic tonight. I know we won 61-28 and you’re thinking ‘Coach what do you want?’ but we had opportunity after opportunity and just came out stumbling and fumbling around,” Ryan explained.
“I thought defense played pretty good. We caused a lot of turnovers and gave our offense great field position several times, but we didn’t capitalize on it. At one point, it could have been a one-score game. Luckily we got a turnover deep and kept it a 14 point game and we finally started pulling away.”
Walker Valley’s defense helped cause six turnovers for Soddy-Daisy. Skyler Swafford, Cody Duggan and Mason Oran each recovered a fumble, while Noah Davis, Logan Manning and Nathan Zakkas each picked off a pass.
Perhaps the lethargy was due to the hangover from an electric 68-36 win over crosstown rival Cleveland last Friday, where the Mustangs put up a total of 645 yards, 217 rushing and 428 receiving.
Kolten Gibson’s performance seemed hampered this week in comparison to Week 7’s. Against the Raiders, Gibson threw for a record 420 yards and five touchdowns. Thursday night, the normally spot-on QB threw for 191 yards.
“He wasn’t on (Thursday night) and was a little rusty. He was kind of throwing a little high and tended to overthrow a bit. He missed one when he threw to Cooper (Melton) but had Zach wide open down the middle right there,” Ryan detailed.
Still, Gibson threw for four touchdowns, covered 97 yards on 10 carries and scored Walker Valley’s second TD of the game on a 5-yard run with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
“I told the guys we’re not going to be super sharp week in and week out, but if we can put 61 points on and not play our best game, I feel like we’ll be OK. We’ve just got to sharpen it up before we get down the stretch,” the Mustang coach commented.
Putting points on the board proved once again to not be an issue for the northern Bradley County squad.
Walker Valley scored 21 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second quarter and after being held scoreless in the third, came back to score 26 more points in the fourth quarter.
The Mustangs won the special teams battle on Thursday, with 14 of their points coming from kick returns. With 11 seconds left in the first half, Nunnelly ran the ball 81 yards for the kickoff return TD. Zakkas got in on the special teams action with 41 seconds left in the game, scoring the final touchdown of the night on an 80-yard kick return.
Nunnelly had three receptions for 52 yards and scored the first touchdown of the game off of a 36-yard pass from Gibson four minutes into the first quarter. Zeke Westfield had three catches for 47 yards. Westfield also reached the end zone with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter from a 16-yard pass from Gibson.
Zach Eslinger had only two catches for 28 yards, but one of those included a 13-yard touchdown pass in the final 17 seconds of the first quarter. Cooper Melton had three receptions for 33 yards.
Walker Valley running back Alex King was able to shine bright in the 33-point victory. King covered 138 yards on 24 carries and had two touchdowns as well. The senior also had two receptions for 27 yards and a TD.
King reached paydirt for the first time on a one-yard run in the second quarter, with 2:13 remaining. In the fourth quarter, he made a quick 3-yard trip into the end zone with 9:40 on the clock and then nearly three minutes later, caught a 15-yard TD pass from Gibson.
In total, the Mustangs had 441 yards on offense, 191 passing and 250 rushing.
This marked the second week in a row that Walker Valley put up over 200 rushing yards, which is a good sign for the coach.
“We’re finally getting our running game back; we’ve just got to keep working on it until we’re fully balanced. It’s going to take a balanced game going down the stretch,” Ryan stated. “Having more consistency up front is helping our run game.”
Soddy-Daisy managed to score one touchdown for each quarter.
Quarterback Justin Cooke, who played in his first game back since being injuring in Week 1, notched his team’s first TD on a 4-yard run with 1:07 left in the first quarter. Cooke’s first game back was shortened, as he was ejected in the second quarter.
Ty Boeck, who had been the backup QB until he was sidelined by an ankle injury, also returned for the Trojans on Thursday. He took over at quarterback and threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns, completing 8-of-15 pass attempts.
“We knew that if Cooke was not in there, Boeck would probably be the quarterback. Both of them had been out for a while, but we knew both were going to be back to start the game and if Cooke couldn’t go, Boeck would be at quarterback. Our guys were ready for that,” Ryan commented.
Boeck connected with Zach Johnson for a 9-yard TD pass with 27 seconds left in the first half, tossed a 34-yard pass to Hunter Burke for a touchdown at 7:09 in the third quarter and then found Johnson again with one minute left in the game for a five-yard TD pass.
Soddy-Daisy had a total of 391 yards, 288 by air and 103 on foot.
Just three more weeks remain in the season, with Walker Valley on the road for two of those weeks.
The Mustangs travel to Sparta on Friday for a meeting with White County and then take on Rhea County on Oct. 21. The regular season finishes up on Oct. 28 with a visit from Ooltewah.
“We’ve got to go on the road to White County and then we’ve got the two big ones, Rhea and Ooltewah,” Ryan stated. “If we’re going to play with those guys and have a chance, we’ve got to be well-oiled by the time we get to those last two games.”