’Stangs Heartbroken Despite Offensive Explosion

Walker Valley senior quarterback Kolten Gibson (3) accounted for eight touchdowns and 626 yards against Stone Memorial in Crossville Friday night. However, the Mustangs turned the ball over five times and were gashed by the Panthers in a 62-55 non-region loss. (Banner Photo: Patrick MacCoon)

CROSSVILLE — Records don’t guarantee victories.

Twice in four weeks Walker Valley personal marks have been shattered by the aerial assault combo of Kolten Gibson and Zeke Westfield, but the ‘Stangs are still looking for their first win.

In a wild shootout with 1,278 total yards combined between a pair of teams with end zone heat seeking playmakers, it was Stone Memorial who came out with the 62-55 win Friday night as Majer Wattenbarger scored his fifth touchdown with 13 seconds remaining.

While Gibson blazed his way to the second most total yards by a single player in TSSAA history with 626, threw for new school records of seven touchdowns to go with 526 passing yards and tied his own record with eight total touchdowns, the ultra competitor was still not pleased.

Even if he is Bradley County’s newest record holder for most passing yards in a game, as Gibson overtook Brent Copeland’s 506 mark that lasted since 1996, Walker Valley’s one-of-a-kind gunslinger expects more.

“As a senior, I think I can speak for us all and say we hate losing,” said Gibson, whose performance puts him third in state history for most passing yards in a game. “A shootout is fun, but my goodness, we have to cut down on our turnovers and make tackles. It’s nice to set records, but if we are going 0-4 that really doesn’t mean anything. We all would love to win.”

With a quick passing attack that made the most of screens, quick outs and comebacks, Gibson also displayed beauty’s deep through the air on a pair of touchdown passes to Westfield and another go-to receiver in Brock Gibson that covered 65 and 66 yards.

However, a rib injury to Westfield with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter cut his record-setting night short as he could not return and finished with 13 catches for 226 yards and three scores.

“I’ve said this all along, Kolten and Zeke can keep us in a lot of games by themselves,” WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. “They have done a great job. Losing Zeke late hurt us because he was having a whale of a game too. When those things happen, the whole team has to step up and play tougher.”

Walker Valley’s offense set a new program record with 671 total yards, just 78 yards shy of the state record, despite losing three fumbles, throwing a pair of interceptions and turning the ball over on downs at the Panthers 9-yard line with 1:55 left to play.

Despite a 41-27 deficit with 11:10 left in the third quarter after Gibson’s sixth touchdown came after he broke through tacklers down the right sideline for a 34-yard scamper, Stone Memorial went on to force four turnovers to help its homecoming victory.

With six turnovers, the Mustangs left 42 points on the board on a night where when the offense did have the ball there were no signs of stopping them.

Even its rushing attack, also led by Gibson with nine quarterback carries for 100 yards, went for 145 yards on 18 carries after totaling a mere 83 yards through its first three games.

“We moved the ball with authority tonight, but we had six turnovers,” Coach Ryan said. “It shouldn’t have been a close game. Our guys’ effort and heart was there tonight, but we keep making too many little mistakes that end up being costly.”

Stone Memorial (3-1), however, bulldozed its way with its wing-T offense for 607 total yards (372 rushing, 235 passing), turned the ball over twice and completed on all three of its fourth down attempts.

Wattenbarger had 230 yards of total offense for the Panthers.

Walker Valley (0-4) averaged more than 9.5 yards on every down and a whopping 20.4 per third down attempt (4-of-5), which included a 30-yard completion on third-and-15 over the middle to Sam Clements on a possible game-winning drive.

Clements finished as one of three WVHS receivers to go over 100 yards as he had right at that mark on six catches, while Brock Gibson starred with six receptions for 147 yards and three scores.

Gibson hauled in both of his cousin’s touchdown passes in the second half, which included a program-record sixth touchdown pass with 10:07 left in the fourth quarter and a deep score to tie things at 55-all with 7:05 left. Gibson and Westfield lead Bradley County with six touchdown catches apiece.

Other standouts for the ’Stangs included Caleb Grannan who caught a 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter and Dylan Allender with 72 total yards (40 rushing, 32 receiving) on eight touches.

On defense Cody Duggan and Kole Hall each had 18 tackles. Isaiah Alston had three tackles for loss, Kellar Carson had a dozen stops, Kendrick Cox had 11 tackles and a sack and Nolan Cawood had an interception.

Westfield displayed he could not be guarded while in the game, as he broke three tackles on an 18-yard diving score and won a 1-yard fade route for his third score right before halftime, but Walker Valley’s offense came up inches short late without the 6-foot-4 physical specimen.

While a historic night nonetheless, the Mustangs lone fourth down conversion attempt was halted by the Panthers run defense and then its offense went for 91 yards in just 1:42 to win the shootout with seconds remaining.

“When they take one away you have to step up,” Coach Ryan said. “A game comes down to where someone has to make that first down, make a catch or make the stop. That’s the game of football and why it is so great. You are constantly being challenged out there and tonight we came up short.”

Gibson has done his fair share, but still wants to do more as he writes a dominant legacy.

With six games left to try and hunt down one of four playoff spots in Region 4-5A, in which Soddy-Daisy is 0-1 in the region along with Walker Valley, Gibson and his teammates will try to do whatever it takes to find a way into the playoffs.

Matchups that could determine their postseason fates will come away against Lenoir City (Sept. 29) and in the season finale at Soddy-Daisy (Oct. 27).

“I will do anything that I can along with my teammates to keep getting better and better,” Gibson said. “Zeke has had some amazing games and he is battling for us even though he is not close to 100 percent. All of our guys just have to keep fighting and playing for the breaks.”

Walker Valley now has a bye week to prepare for Cleveland, who is part two of a four-game road trip.

An opponent whom Gibson also scored eight touchdowns against in a 68-36 win last season, which is tied for third most touchdowns in a game in state history.

“Nobody likes being 0-4, especially me,” Coach Ryan said. “We just have to keep fighting and become even more of a family. We have to find a way to pull through this adversity and put the pieces together.”

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