Walker Valley wide receiver Zeke Westfield (3) in action here against Rhea County, will be a big target for quarterback Kolten Gibson (3) when the Mustangs meet the Panthers on Friday in Lenoir City. (Banner Photo: Lynnae Roberts)
One of the nation’s top passing attacks is right up the road, at Walker Valley High School.
Despite sailing through the air for an average of 355.4 yards per game, which ranks 27th in the country, the Mustangs are still chomping at the bit for their first win of the season.
While Kolten Gibson needs just 11 more touchdowns for an all-time Southeast Tennessee record (106 career scores) with at least four games left, a win at Lenoir City this week could go a long way in to helping lock a first-round playoff game.
“This is a major region game and when you only have five teams in the region it doesn’t take many region wins to get in the playoffs,” WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. “It doesn’t matter what your record is. If you get to the playoffs it’s a brand new season. It’s been our goal to make it there from day one.”
Instead of a defeated locker room, the winless Mustangs (0-5, 0-1 Region 4-5A) feel opportunistic as they get set to take on the Panthers (3-3, 1-1) Friday night.
Although a young defense has allowed 52.8 points per game, several scores against them could have been prevented with ball security.
Walker Valley has turned the ball 18 times in just five games and forced just five takeaways.
“We have a team that is very capable of winning this game, but we also have one that is capable of going out there and running around like chickens with our heads cut off,” Ryan said. “We have to be focused and ready to go play. We have yet to win the turnover battle this season and we have to find a way to not have those same mental mistakes hurt us this week.”
Covering up the football will be a major X-factor in Week 7 as Lenoir City has won a game already this season against a stout Soddy-Daisy football program, which they turned over five times in the red zone.
“This is no slouchy team, by any means,” Ryan added. “They are very solid in what they do and they have a quarterback that throws the ball well and can scramble. The point of the matter is they have some wins and we are fighting for our first.”
The Mustangs defense has shifted senior enforcer Cody Duggan to “Mike” linebacker in a move to get more experience at the position.
Meanwhile, the defensive line has quite a bit of experience for WV and will look to Chris Crenshaw, Tyler Shirk, Reid Abel and Isaiah Alston to contain the quarterback.
With an offense that throws the ball 70 percent of the time since Week 3, the Mustangs are very capable and scary for opposing defenses.
The combination of two of the greater-Chattanooga area’s top scoring wide receivers in seniors Zeke Westfield and Brock Gibson (7 touchdowns apiece), has helped their gunslinger make waves.
The fourth-year starting quarterback for Walker Valley is on pace to throw for 3,554 yards and 38 touchdowns in 10 regular season games. Kolten Gibson’s current career-high is 29 aerial scores.
Westfield is ranked ninth in the country in receiving yards, despite being a game behind most with WV already having its bye week. The 6-foot-4 wide receiver has “mossed” several opposing defensive backs to the tune of 48 catches for 882 yards.
Three times this season Westfield has broke the Walker Valley single-game receiving record, with his 241-yard week against Cleveland now setting at the top. He is on pace for a single season record of 1,664 yards in 10 games.
The cousin connection of Gibson-to-Gibson has also turned heads, as Brock Gibson has reeled in 41 percent of his catches for touchdowns (17 catches, 342 yards, 7 TDs).
“Brock has been a great surprise for us,” Ryan said. “For him to come on like he has after not playing football since middle school, he has been everything and more than what we thought he would be. “He is a great threat in the passing game.
“I hope he serves as encouragement for other guys in the hallway. If they are athletic and can come out, they can help this football team.”
Sam Clements (28 catches, 263 yards) has been a major force at H-back this season for Walker Valley too, as he has been a trusty check down and over the middle target. He and Caleb Grannan have combined for WV’s other five receiving scores.
While the Mustangs have scored 102 points over their last two games, this week a big offensive showing hopes to lead to a major region win.
Their last and only region contest was a 62-55 road loss to Stone Memorial.
“You would think scoring around 40 to 50 points would win a lot of football games, but with our team it doesn’t,” Ryan said. “I’m hoping this game doesn’t turn into a shootout. I want us to play all three phases of the game well, and come away on top.”