Walker Valley Quarterback Kolten Gibson eyes H-Back Sam Clements during Tuesday's final Preseason Scrimmage against Polk County. (Banner Photo: Patrick MacCoon)
BENTON — With a beautiful backdrop and great football weather, a pair of local gridiron squads faced off for their final tune-ups before jamboree weekend hits.
Despite a three-spot classification difference, Polk County showed little weakness against Class 5A program Walker Valley Tuesday night.
With huge hits on defense, solid interior rushing and a little shake and bake, the Wildcats went on to outscore the Mustangs 4-2 in an hour and a half of varsity action.
“We’ve missed a little bit of the physical part the last couple of year,” PCHS head coach Derrick Davis said. “The kids played hard. In most of our games this year we won’t see a team this good. Walker Valley is not a slouch.”
Bruising senior tailback Kendall Swemley made opposing tacklers miss often on his way to 72 rushing yards on just five carries, while he also made up for an earlier touchdown allowed with the big hit of the night to jar a would-be touchdown loose.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder with a low center of gravity and ox-like strength will play a huge part for Polk County on both sides of the ball this season.
“Kendall didn’t even play his freshman year,” Davis said. “If he would have there is no telling how good he would be today. We are going to call on him a lot in a season where we are fighting to get the respect back. We took a big step forward today.”
The Wildcats scored on back-to-back drives to begin the scrimmage, which came after their defense forced an air-based Mustang attack into a turnover on downs.
“Our guys needed to see the physical aspect tonight,” Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan said. “Coach Davis does a great job up here and he always has hard-nosed kids. We will see physical teams like them this season that just love to pound it at you.”
Also with a standout performance in the run game was PC junior Hunter Morgan, who had 60 yards and two scores. His highlight run of the night came when he reeled off a 21-yard dash down the left visitor’s sideline and dove over the pylon to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.
Polk’s defense forced a trio of turnovers on downs and had a fumble recovery in six varsity series.
Junior running back Kyle Dunn totaled over 50 yards as well, and capped off the last score with a 31-yard TD dash right up the middle.
With a true grit style of play, the Wildcats were plenty happy with their takeaways from a scrimmage where they had no injuries as well.
“If we can play physical like this week-by-week, then we will be in all of our ball games,” Coach Davis said. “We have 10 seniors who have taken their lumps over the years and a lot of them have started since they were freshman. Take that with 19 juniors and we can’t say we are young anymore.”
While Walker Valley’s offense sputtered at times, its passing attack led by one of the state’s most experienced signal callers looked particularly strong.
Senior Kolten Gibson at times picked apart the defense as he completed 14-of-25 passes for 221 yards and a score in five drives. He sat for one series.
The Mustangs second possession of the evening saw Gibson complete 4-of-6 passes for 75 yard, which included a 19-yard touchdown strike across the middle to H-back (fullback/tight end) Sam Clements.
Clements, a senior, finished with six catches for 74 yards. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder should be a heavily targeted force in the WV offense this season after playing exclusively on the offensive line last season.
Junior Luke Wallace led all Mustang receivers with seven catches for 90 yards, while senior Caleb Grannan added two for 51 yards and senior Brock Gibson reeled in a pair for 42 yards.
“Luke had a really good day,” Coach Ryan said. “We still need him to work on blocking some more, but he has been doing a solid job catching the ball for us.”
Also with touchdown plunges on the evening were Polk County’s Nate Waters on a 1-yard quarterback sneak and Walker Valley freshman Dylan Allender on a 6-yard hard-nosed rumble.
While standout seniors Zeke Westfield (wide receiver) and Isaiah Alston (defensive tackle) sat out with injuries, both are expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Westfield is currently having a custom-fitted knee brace made for a knee injury sustained in a preseason game against Bearden on a jump ball.
“We still have a lot of work to do and a short time to get there,” Ryan said. “The jamboree is one more opportunity to fix our mistakes before we open up next Thursday against Chattanooga Central. We have to improve every time we step on the field.”
Polk County’s JV team ended the night with a 5-1 defeat of Walker Valley for the sweep. Two of their scores came off turnovers.
Mustang freshman Kallum Lowe was impressive in the ground game. He is expected to start at middle linebacker on varsity this season.
Walker Valley will take on Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy at 6 and 7 p.m. in the Best of Preps Jamboree at Finley Stadium Saturday.
Polk County will kickoff its jamboree with Loudon Friday night at 7:20 p.m. at Tellico.