The learning curve is still extremely evident for the Mustangs defense.
With no returners at linebacker or in the secondary, holes were exposed by both East Hamilton and Brainerd in full-contact scrimmages Saturday morning.
At times Cody Duggan was the lone returner with experience on the defensive side even.
While outscored 9-5 in touchdowns, Walker Valley was missing expected breakout wide receiver/strong safety Zeke Westfield (knee swelling).
Standout senior quarterback Kolten Gibson also remained on the sideline for the second game against Brainerd with a sore back and so did Isaiah Alston with a sore knee.
Stepping up offensively for the Mustangs were senior Sam Clements and junior Brock Gibson.
Clements looked strong at tight end as he hauled in four catches for 72 yards and a 10-yard touchdown across the middle where he carried a defender into the endzone. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound halfback/tight end looks to be a much-needed weapon for Gibson this season.
Gibson provided a strong impact in the deep passing game as the 6-foot-3 receiver caught three passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gibson connection hooked up against the Hurricanes for a 40-yard score as the gunslinger’s pass was dropped in a perfect window to his new receiver in stride down the right sideline.
Gibson also high-pointed the ball for a 30-yard score against the Panthers at the end of the second scrimmage.
Luke Wallace also scored in the first scrimmage on a 10-yard screen pass.
East Hamilton scored six times compared to Walker Valley’s three.
Brainerd scored the first three touchdowns of the second scrimmage and forced the Mustangs into four turnovers. The Mustangs scored twice with a fourth-and-one conversion being an 11-yard touchdown run from Dylan Allender.
WV sophomore running back Kole Hall had five runs over five yards against the Panthers, but also fumbled twice.
Gibson did not play again after keeping the ball for a 30-yard gain down the middle of the field, but appeared to be fine on the sideline.
Defensively Chris Crenshaw had three sacks and several hurries, Mikey Humphries recovered a fumble and Alston had a sack and a pass deflection against East Hamilton.
Expected to start at middle linebacker, freshman Kallum Lowe showed positive signs and recorded eight tackles.
On special teams Charlie Swafford connected on 3-of-4 extra point attempts.
With the season opener against Chattanooga Central on Thursday, August 17 the Mustangs will look for a young defense to grow up in a hurry and for its stars to heal up.
They will take on Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday in the Best of Preps Jamboree at UTC’s Finley Stadium.