Walker Valley senior wide receiver Zeke Westfield (2) looks in a 20-yard touchdown catch against Chattanooga Central Thursday at Finley Stadium, in Chattanooga. (Banner Photo: Daniel Guy)
CHATTANOOGA — As Walker Valley loaded the buses a little after 12:30 a.m. outside Finley Stadium, a hobbled Zeke Westfield made his way up a hillside after the top highlight performance of his career.
The 16-year old senior gave his all for the Mustangs, despite the final tally falling 48-36 in favor of the rising Chattanooga Central Purple Pounders.
Even without catching his first pass until 2:44 left in the first quarter and leaving the game with the help of trainers with 3:29 left in the final quarter, the star wide receiver still put forth sky-high numbers.
Towering above opposing defensive backs, the 6-foot-5 Westfield mustered all his strength for a nine catch, 217-yard school record performance and two scores.
All on a torn PCL and partially torn ACL, for which he wore a left knee brace to help aid an injury suffered over a month ago in a 7-on-7 scrimmage.
“I felt good coming in, but as the game went on I could feel it getting more sore,” said Westfield, who came close to his 247 receiving yardage total from all of last season over seven games. “What I did tonight, I expect out of myself every time I am able to go out there this season.”
While Walker Valley senior quarterback Kolten Gibson broke his own school record, throwing for 422 passing yards and matching a career-high with five passing touchdowns, he still turned the attention to his comrade after a tough defeat.
“Zeke fought and played through the pain tonight,” said Gibson, who completed 26 of 38 passes with zero interceptions. “He is unreal and a top notch competitor. He got hurt maybe three times tonight, but still was able to give us a ton of spark.”
Simply put, Westfield made plays some college wide receivers would find difficult to make.
Gibson, who has been spoiled with star receivers such as Bryce Nunnelly and Cooper Melton, simply had to throw it in No. 2’s vicinity.
Westfield put the Mustangs on the board in an unlikely situation as he outraced his coverage for a 52-yard score and his first catch on UTC’s gridiron on a third down-and-32.
He went on to rattle off 108 straight yards for WV over the next four plays to end the first quarter, which included a nifty spin move after first contact for a 25-yard gain on a simple cross route and a 20-yard leaping, over-the-shoulder TD grab down the left sideline past two defenders.
By halftime Westfield was on pace for a single game TSSAA record for receiving yards (358) with a line of six catches for 183 yards.
He went on to break Nunnelly's record of 206 receiving set against Cleveland last season, a 68-36 win in which Gibson had also previously set a school record with 420 passing yards.
“Kolten and Zeke kept us afloat offensively early on,” WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. “Zeke is a warrior and is probably playing at a max of 80 percent right now. He wanted to play. We just have to find a way to keep him as healthy as possible.”
While the Mustang air raid offense was unstoppable at times, a trio of costly fumbles and two turnovers inside the Purple Pounders’ 25-yard line were decisive in the final outcome.
Down just 24-17 at halftime soon after Charlie Swafford’s 26-yard field goal split the uprights, Walker Valley had the chance to tie the score as they deferred to the second half.
However, Chattanooga Central outside linebacker Jerod Bibbs had other plans.
The dominant rusher, who also was playing on a bum leg, stormed into the backfield for his fourth sack and retrieved the forced fumble as well for a 50-yard score. The Purple Pounders, who did not attempt an extra point all night converted the two-point conversion for a 32-17 lead early in the third quarter.
A youthful Mustang defense showed flashes of improvement, including a turnover on downs forced by freshman safety Reid Gibson (six tackles), but still were gashed hard.
Central’s offense compiled 515 total yards and received a dominant ground performance from backs Michael McGhee and DonYa Parker.
In Central’s highest scoring output since a 49-0 win over Howard on Oct. 17, 2014, the tough runners combined for 268 yards on 35 carries and four touchdowns. One of their lead blockers was 6-foot-10 Wyatt Garrett
The Purple Pounders held their opponent to 24 yards rushing.
Also starring in the win was Jaheim Jones, who threw for 195 yards (9-of-10, 151 first half) and added 52 rushing yards. One of his two touchdowns was a 62-yard strike to Andrew Bingham on the fourth play of the game.
Gibson threw for 209 yards in the first half and another 213 in the final 24 minutes.
WV senior Brock Gibson was his big time playmaker in the second half, as the 6-foot-2 receiver hauled in all four of his catches for 99 yards and scores from 60 and four yards out.
Westfield and Gibson each scored twice, while senior H-back Sam Clements was the recipient of another on a 13-yard catch to cut the Mustangs deficit to 32-24 with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
Clements, who was an all-region offensive lineman last season, finished with seven catches for 56 yards.
Despite an impressive night through the air, much is still left to improve.
“We didn’t even play a good game offensively today,” said WV’s gunslinger, who now has 79 career total touchdowns. “I expect bigger things out of this offense. Our defense gave us some opportunities and we let some slip away tonight.”
Walker Valley 14 3 7 12 — 36
Chatt. Central 18 6 16 8 — 48
CC— Andrew Bigham 62-yd pass from Jaheim Jones (2-point failed), 9:56
CC — Michael McGhee 1-yd. run (2 point failed), 7:56
CC — Jaheim Jones 17-yd run (2 -point failed), 4:39
WV — Zeke Westfield 52-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (Charlie Swafford kick), 2:44
WV — Westfield 20-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (Swafford kick), 0:00
CC — McGhee 1-yd. run (2-point failed), 9:14
WV — Swafford 26-yd field goal, :18
CC — Jerod Bibbs 50-yd fumble recovery (2-Point successful), 10:24
WV — Sam Clements 13-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (Swafford kick) , 6:53
CC— DonYa Parker 34-yd run (2-Point successful), 3:22
WV— Brock Gibson 60-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (2-Point failed), 7:17
CC — Michael McGhee 4-yd. run (2-point successful), 4:27
WV — Brock Gibson 4-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (2-Point failed), 2:34
First downs WV 20 CC 23
Rushes-yards WV 23-24 CC 40-320
Passing yards WV 422 CC 195
Total yards WV 446 CC 515
Comp-Att-Int WV 26-38-0 CC 10-15-0
Punts -Ave. WV 3-33 CC 4-22
Fumbles-Lost WV 3-3 CC 1-0
Penalties WV 6-50 CC 8-75
Dylan Allender 5-18,
Kolten Gibson 10-8
DonYa Parker 17-168
Michael McGhee 18-100
Jaheim Jones 5-52
Kolten Gibson 26-38-0 422 TD
Jaheim Jones 10-15-0 195
Zeke Westfield 9-217 2 TD
Brock Gibson 4-99 2 TD
Sam Clements 7-56 TD
Kole Hall 2-20
Caleb Grannan 1-1
Luke Wallace 2-29
Andrew Bingham 7-105 TD
Walker Valley 0-1
Chattanooga Central 1-0.