Walker Valley running back Mason Oran (24) heads for the end zone in the first quarter against Ooltewah Friday inside “The Corral” at Walker Valley. (Banner Photo: Lynnae Roberts)
With 1:57 left in the third quarter Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan gathered his defense on the sideline and told them to take a good look at the scoreboard after Ooltewah put up its fifth score of the game to take a 35-21 lead.
Ryan's plea to the Mustangs' defense to plug the middle and make tackles did little to stop the Owls' punishing running game in the eventual 63-35 Senior Night whipping.
“It was terrible. We acted like we have never played the game. We dove, left our feet and were grabbing and you just can't do that against those backs. It was not a good night for us defensively at all,” said a displeased Ryan. “We came out and looked pretty good and then I don't know. We are going to have to go back and watch film and see. Based on what we saw, we had guys there we just didn't tackle, didn't wrap up. It was ugly.”
The Mustangs finished the regular season with a 6-4 mark, 3-3 in Region 4-5A football. They will be on the road for the Round 1 of the 5A playoffs against Region 3 champion and eighth-ranked Oak Ridge. The Wildcats finished a perfect 5-0 in Region 3-5A.
“We had better go back in and get some things fixed quick. We have another team that's going to be good next week. From here on out we had better be ready to step up. We didn't do a good job of that tonight,” lamented Ryan. “When you get beat like that we've got to go back and look at how we practice and how we do things. It was not a good job all the way around. We (coaches) didn't do a good job, they (the team) didn't do a good job and we are going to have to fix it and get better.”
Coming into Friday's tilt, Walker Valley senior running back Alex King needed only 19 yards to surpass Kelvin Wells Jr. as the Mustangs' all-time rushing leader. King picked up 54 yards before leaving the game in the first quarter after a chronic hip injury flared back up. King's yardage set him up as the new career rushing leader with 2,815 yards.
“He's had a hip injury that's been bothering him all season. He re-aggravated it a little. Hopefully, he's all right,” said Ryan. “We also lost two starting linemen during the game and we hope they will be OK. But, injuries are part of the game. You have to have somebody step in.
“I thought Mason (Oran) did a great job of stepping in for Alex and playing both ways. Hats off to him. I thought Bryce (Nunnelly) did a good and Kolten (Gibson) played well considering everything. Cooper Melton had another good game.”
Gibson and Nunnelly set the early tone for the Mustangs on offense with a Gibson to Nunnelly swing pass that resulted in a 62-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.
The Mustangs scored again with 3:48 left in the first quarter after Nathan Zakkas intercepted an Ooltewah pass and set Walker Valley up at the Owls' 15-yard line. Oran quickly overcame a five-yard Mustangs penalty and weaved his way through traffic on the first play from scrimmage to put Walker Valley back on top.
Ooltewah retaliated on its next possession to knot the score at 14-14 and took its first lead of the night, 21-14, with just over eight minutes left in the first half.
The Mustangs finished a late first quarter drive one play into the second with Oran's second TD of the night that tied the game at 21-21. The lead lasted exactly one play before Ooltewah took the lead for good with a 56-yard TD toss.
The Owls took a 35-21 lead with just under two minutes left in the half on an 18-yard run. Ooltwah's running tandem of Cameron Turner and Sincere Quinn gashed the Walker Valley defense for 502 yards. Turner rushed for 283 while Quinn ended with 219. The Mustangs gave up 633 yards on the ground and through the air.
“We've just got to play defense. We've got to stop people. We are going to have to tackle a whole lot better than that. That's how we've been playing all year. I know we've given up points, but we looked awful on defense tonight,” said Ryan.
The third quarter came to a close with the Owls holding a 49-28 lead after Gibson hooked up with Zach Eslinger for a 14-yard scoring toss and catch. Gibson called his own number early in the fourth on 3-yard score to close the gap to 21 points. Ooltewah tacked on two more scores in the fourth to make it a 63-35 final.
“After tonight there is no tomorrow. That's what we've got to get through to our guys. They've got a chance. Don't be satisfied just because you are in the playoffs. We need to win a playoff game,” said Ryan after his truncated post-game debriefing with the Mustangs. “We're at the crossroads. We've got to decide if we are going to bow up and get it done or are we we going to say we're satisfied and go on to the next thing. It's going to be a challenge this week. It's going to be a challenge for the coaches and a challenge for the players. We've got to step it up.”
Ooltewah 14 21 14 14 — 63
Walker Valley 14 7 7 7 — 35
WV — Bryce Nunnelly 62 pass from Kolten Gibson (Sam Gibson kick), 11:44
O — Cameron Turner 80 run (Aleksander Toser kick), 7:06
WV — Mason Oran 20 run (S. Gibson kick), 3:48
O — Andrew Manning 13 pass from Collin Thurman (Toser kick), 1:23
O — Turner 7 run (Toser kick) 8:22
WV — Oran 1 run (S. Gibson kick), 6:05
O — Tahj Cargle 56 pass from Thurman (Toser kick), 5:45
O — Bryce Matthews 18 run (Toser kick), 1:57
O — Sincere Quinn 42 run (Toser kick), 11:13
O — Quinn 6 run (Toser kick), 6:19
WV — Zach Eslinger 15 pass from K. Gibson (S. Gibson kick), 5:28
WV — Gibson 3 run (S. Gibson kick),
O — Quinn 36 run (Toser kick), 11:52
O — Turner 15 run (Toser kick), 4:34
First downs O 21 WV 18
Rushes-Yards O 47-550 WV 28-164
Passing O 129 WV 272
Total yards O 679 WV 436
Comp-Att-Int O 11-17-1 WV 11-16-0
Punts-Avg. O 2-32.5 WV 6-34.5
Fumbles-Lost O 0-0 WV 3-2
Penalties-Yards O 9-74 WV 6-45
Alex King 3-46
K. Gibson 6-44
Thurman 11-17, 131 (O)
K. Gibson 23-37, 272 (WV).
Zeke Westfield 3-27
Ooltewah 8-2, 5-1 Region 4-5A
Walker Valley 6-4, 3-3 Region 4-5A.