Walker Valley senior receiver Zeke Westfield (2) is pursued by the Rhea County defense after a catch in the first half Friday, at Walker Valley. (Banner Photo: Lynnae Roberts)
Walker Valley showed flashes of what a solid, in sync football team looks like Friday night, but too many times the inconsistency bug reared its head and bit the Mustangs.
The Kolten Gibson led Mustangs came back from an early 6-0 first-quarter deficit against Rhea County, but did not score again until the fourth quarter in a 35-14 loss to the Golden Eagles.
“We are just very erratic, very inconsistent. This bunch has been a puzzle to me trying to find out what makes them tick and what makes them go. There comes a point in time when we need them to step up and do their job on a consistent level. They show spurts where they are consistent and then we just kind of get complacent. We've just got to keep plugging. We've got lot of youth out there but we need our older guys to step up and lead the way,” said Mustangs coach Glen Ryan after the Region 4-5A loss.
“This was a game that could have gone either way. We just didn't get it done. We've got to get to where we can play a whole game. We've got to get things going. Our challenge to them is to come out here and get better every day. We didn't get better tonight.”
Defensively, Walker Valley gave up 333 yards on the ground as the Eagles (1-2, 1-0 region 4-5A) consistently picked on the Mustangs' corners with an effective jet sweep. The Mustangs (0-3, 0-1) could only manage 48 yards on the ground.
“We've got to do a better job all the way around. That's coaches, players, everybody. We've got to keep working until we get this thing where it needs to be,” said Ryan.
It took Rhea County took only 2 ½ minutes to put the first numbers on the board, scoring from 12-yards out to take the lead after an opening drive of 85 yards.
The Mustangs put things together on their second possession of the game with Gibson engineering a 65-yard trip that saw quarterback Gibson connect with wide receiver Brock Gibson for 14 yards and a Walker Valley touchdown with just over three minutes left in the first quarter.
Gibson was able to pick the Rhea defense for 261 yards through the air completing 24-of-47 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Gibson divided his passes among five Mustangs receivers.
“I think he is pressing,” Ryan said of his senior field general who was intercepted three times on the night. “Kolten is trying so hard. He is such a competitor. It bothers him when the offense is not putting out and he started pressing. In doing so he made some mistakes, but it's not from lack of effort. He's just got to relax and play within himself. He will be OK.”
Rhea County responded with a second 85-yard march that started at the end of the first and came to a close 36 seconds into the second quarter.After a successful 2-point conversion, the Eagles held a 14-7 lead.
Rhea added one more score before the half ended and took a 21-7 lead into the locker room.
The Eagles came out of the halftime break to take a 28-7 advantage, scoring from 50 yards out on the first play from scrimmage after a Walker Valley punt.
The Eagles took over possession at the 50-yard line again early in the fourth quarter after a fake punt on fourth down came up short for the Mustangs.
With 7:17 left to play, Rhea took a 35-7 lead with a score from the Walker Valley 1-yard line.
Gibson and the Mustangs went to work after the Rhea TD from their own 24 with the Walker Valley QB finding open receivers for three 16-yard gains to set the Mustangs up at the Rhea County 16-yard line.
Gibson was perfect one more time with a final toss to Caleb Grannan. Charlie Swafford made it a 35-14 game with the PAT.
The Mustangs got one more chance after forcing a Rhea County punt with just over two minutes left to play.
Walker Valley pushed its way to the Eagles' 15 before a final pass fell incomplete as time ran out.
“We've got to put this behind us. We've got to learn from it. Somebody told me a long time ago if you've never made mistakes you probably haven't done a whole lot in your life. There were a lot of mistakes and we've got to learn from those mistakes. Every time we step on this field we are making a lot of mistakes, but we've got to learn from them and get better,” said a disappointed Ryan. “I don't think we did a good job of getting better tonight. I felt like we just kind of stayed the same. We've got to improve every week if we are going to have a chance of having anything happen this year.”
Rhea County 6 15 7 7 — 35
Walker Valley 7 0 0 7 — 14
RC — Christian Simon 12 run (kick failed), 9:29
WV — Brock Gibson 13 pass from Kolten Gibson (Charlie Swafford kick), 3:26
RC — Gavin Morrison 14 run (Zack Pemberton run), 11:24
RC — Simon 6 run (Haden Frashier kick), 5:02
RC — Morrison 5 run (Frashier kick), 6:57
RC — Christian Simon 1 run (Frashier kick), 7:17
WV — Caleb Grannan 16 pass from K. Gibson (Swafford kick), 5:22
First downs RC 18 WV 18
Rushes-Yards RC 43-333 WV 22-48
Passing RC 55 WV 261
Total yards RC 388 WV 309
Comp-Att-Int RC 4-10-0 WV 24-47-3
Punts-Avg RC 5-38.4 WV 5-29
Fumbles-Lost RC 2-1 WV 0-0
Penalties-Yards RC 11-100 WV 8-84
Nathan Ferry 5-66
Gavin Morrison 9-96
Kolten Gibson 8-37
Kallum Lowe 10-16
Cody Duggan 1-8
Pemberton 4-10, 55
K. Gibson 24-47-3 261 2 TDs
Jaden Austin 2-14
Zeke Westfield 13-140
Grannan 3-43 TD
Sam Clements 3-41
Dylan Alexander 4-23
B. Gibson 1-14 TD
Rhea County 1-2, 1-0 Region 4-5A
Walker Valley 0-3, 0-1 Region 4-5A