Walker Valley junior running back Dylan Allender will look to get the ground game rolling Friday night, in the Region 4-5A opener at home against Rhea County. (Banner File Photo)
Mother nature will not be only battle facing Walker Valley as they open up Region 4-5A play at home this Friday night.
A hungry Rhea County squad will make the trek over looking for its first win of the season as well.
Mark Pemberton will be looking for his Golden Eagles to run wild, especially considering conditions will most likely play to the run, given the weather forecasts.
Walker Valley faces some tough challenges to say the least, as a youthful defense and a much relied upon passing attack try to avoid starting 0-3 on the young season.
Kolten Gibson can sling it.
This is something we all know, as the defending Region 4-5A Player of the Year has already thrown for 560 yards and six touchdowns already this season.
However, the rushing attack has not opened up any space at all for Gibson to throw.
In a 48-36 defeat to Chattanooga Central, the Mustangs rushed for 15 yards on 24 carries and then just 21 yards on 18 carries in a 52-7 loss at home to Bradley Central.
If the weather predictions are accurate and rain showers do fall Friday night under the lights, simply put, a rushing attack that can move the chains will have to be in place.
So far the only two positive rushers for Walker Valley this season have been junior Dylan Allender (13 carries, 31 yards) and freshman Kallum Lowe (5 carries, 22 yards).
With Lowe also assuming time on the defensive side at middle linebacker, of course the preference would be for Allender to get rolling early.
However, the Mustangs will look to muster any success on the ground game they can after an average of just 0.86 yards gained per carry so far.
Gibson will also have to act as a mobile threat and use his legs more often to move the chains, as quarterback pressure has forced him down via the sack eight times already this season.
With an opponent like Rhea, who loves rushing and is built to run the football, Walker Valley must find a way to run to stay in this game.
Rhea County’s first two losses came in a heartbreaker to Cleveland and a thrashing provided by state power Blackman (52-21).
Get Sam Clements the ball
If indeed the ball is tough to handle and slick, Clements stands closest to his quarterback as a viable threat at the H back position.
Clements (6-foot-3, 225-pounds) is second to star wide receiver Zeke Westfield (12 catches, 271 receiving yards, 3 TDs) with 11 catches for 76 yards and a score. He could be the recipient of several quick dumpoffs again, with it tough to throw the ball deep or with accuracy against possible rainy and windy conditions.
Senior Brock Gibson has been a steady threat for the Mustangs so far in the passing game as well, and will need to make plays over the middle against the Golden Eagles.
Gibson, also a basketball player, has seven catches for 119 yards (17 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. His chemistry with Gibson (cousin) will need to be there when called upon across the middle of the field or on quick screens.
Also making an impact for Walker Valley is the No. 2 receiver’s younger brother, Reid Gibson.
The freshman has starred at safety and made a surprise arrival, as he wasn’t at spring practice or even known to the football team until Week 1 preparation for Chattanooga Central.
With fearless abandon, Gibson has made an instant impact with 14 tackles and a trio of tackles for loss this season. He has proven able to stop the run at times and can make some big stops on third down.
Walker Valley will have a tough test to upend Rhea County and give a program that has averaged 10 wins a season the past three years its third loss in a row.
The Mustangs will have to find answers in a hurry in their run game and on the defensive side in stopping the Golden Eagles from running the ball with authority.