Mustang Stampede Secures Playoff Berth
Walker Valley's Skyler Swafford (40) sacks the White County quarterback Logan Swoape (5) during Friday's Region 4-5A game in Sparta. Swafford had a total of 17 tackles in the game, including two sacks. (Photo: Delaney Walker)
SPARTA — For the first time in three weeks, the Walker Valley Mustangs were held to under 60 points in a game — not that it really made a difference in their decisive 42-7 win over Region 4-5A opponent White County.
“We didn’t get to 60 but it was a good win for us,” Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan laughed. “I’m proud of the guys and I’m proud of the coaches, they did a great job getting ready. We’ll enjoy this one tonight and then it’s time to get ready for Rhea County.”
Making things even sweeter for the Navy-and-Gold was the realization that their 35-point win over the Warriors ensured them a spot in the playoffs. The potential is even there for the No. 10 ranked Mustangs to host.
“I knew there were some tough games going on (Friday) night, so I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be,” Ryan commented.
Once again the Mustangs (6-2, 3-1) charged out of the gate, this time scoring half of their total points in the first quarter. On the flip side, Walker Valley allowed the Warriors (3-6, 0-5) only one trip to the end zone in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t sharp, but we made big plays when we had to make the big plays. We just can’t rely on big plays all the time. We’ve got to be a little crisper, but our defense has stepped up,” Ryan stated. “I thought our defense played really well with the exception of that one time where we had the shank punt and they had a short field. We played pretty good and even stopped them on a fourth and less than a yard down there.”
Offensively, Walker Valley ended the night with a total of 346 yards, 106 rushing and 240 passing. Their touchdowns were split evenly with three coming by foot and three coming by air.
Senior running back Alex King ran in all three of the Mustangs’ rushing touchdowns, with two one-yard runs into the end zone at 9:43 and 4:41 in the first quarter and a two-yard carry with 6:22 remaining in the third quarter. King had 15 carries for a total of 56 yards.
King’s two TD’s have brought him to a career total of 40 rushing and he is currently only 85 yards shy of becoming the program’s all-time leading rusher.
Junior quarterback Kolten Gibson completed 13-of-19 passes for 231 yards. The QB also had seven carries for 22 yards. Gibson has now thrown for 20 touchdown passes, which is the most ever thrown in a season at Walker Valley.
Gibson connected with senior receiver Zach Eslinger five times for a total of 102 yards, most of which gave Walker Valley crucial first downs.
Senior receiver Cooper Melton had four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Melton’s TD’s came in the second quarter. The first was on a 31-yard pass at 10:18 and the second came nearly 9 minutes later on an 11 yard toss.
Bryce Nunnelly, a senior UTC commit, had only one catch in the region game, but it was a 25-yard reception for a touchdown with 3:44 left in the first quarter.
Freshman kicker Charlie Swafford, who has been filling the shoes left vacant by senior kicker Sam Gibson who was sidelined by a concussion a few weeks ago, hit all six of his extra point attempts Friday night.
Walker Valley’s defense had a big night in Sparta, allowing their hosts only 198 yards total, 105 rushing and 93 passing. The White County QB was sacked five times in the game and the team lost two fumbles.
The Warriors’ lone touchdown came one minute into the second quarter on a four yard run.
Senior Skyler Swafford picked up 17 more tackles, which has brought him to a total of 267 career tackles and established him as the school’s all-time leader. Swafford had 11 solo tackles and was in on six others, had five tackles for loss and sacked the Warrior quarterback twice.
Junior Cody Duggan finished the game with 16 total tackles, 10 solo and six assisted. Duggan had one sack and three tackles for loss.
Robert Varner and Isaiah Alston were the other two defensive players to sack the quarterback, while Grayson Rountree and Dylan Towers each recovered a fumble.
“We’re getting better in some areas and still have to sharpen up in some areas, but that’s part of it and that’s why you play the whole season. Hopefully you continue to progress each week and peak at the right time,” Ryan stated. “We have yet to just come out there and really play crisp on all phases. We’re going to need to do that these next couple weeks.”
The time couldn’t be better for the Mustangs to come out crisp on both sides of the ball.
This Friday the team travels to Rhea County to take on the Eagles, who are currently undefeated in region play. Walker Valley then closes the regular season out against Ooltewah, who has only one region loss at the moment. Winning out will give the Mustangs the home field advantage to start out the playoffs.
“Anything can happen, if we win out, we can do it,” Ryan declared. “We’ve got two tough teams to go though and right now, we’re just focused on Rhea.”
Walker Valley 21 14 7 0 — 42
White County 0 7 0 0 — 7
WV – Alex King 1 run (Charlie Swafford kick), 9:43
WV – King 1 run (Swafford kick), 4:41
WV – Bryce Nunnelly 25 pass from Kolten Gibson (Swafford kick), 3:44
WC – Jake Shockey 4 run (Kendrick Leftwich kick), 11:00
WV – Cooper Melton 31 pass from Gibson (Swafford kick), 10:18
WV – Melton 11 pass from Gibson (Swafford kick), 1:28
WV – King 2 run (Swafford kick), 3:44
First Downs WV 15 WC 13
Rushing yds WV 29-106 WC 39-105
Passing yds WV 240 WC 93
Comp-Att-Int WV 13-19-0 WC 8-16-0
Total yds WV 346 WC 198
Fumbles-Lost WV 1-1 WC 2-2
Penalties WV 4-44 WC 7-64
Rushing — Alex King 15-56 3 TDs, Kolten Gibson 7-22, Kole Hall 2-12 (WV).
Passing — Gibson 12-18, 231 3 TDs; Noah Davis 1-1-0, 9 (WV).
Receiving — Zach Eslinger 5-102, Cooper Melton 4-94 2 TDs, Bryce Nunnelly 1-25 TD, Zeke Westfield 2-19 (WV).
Walker Valley 6-2, 3-1 Region 4-5A
White County 3-6, 0-5 Region 4-5A.