Walker Valley celebrates its first win of the season after senior Kolten Gibson (3) picks off his second interception of the night on Red Bank's "Hail Mary" attempt on the game's final play to preserve the 45-42 upset of the state-ranked Lions. (Photo: Nikki Swafford)
RED BANK — The scene after Kolten Gibson intercepted Red Bank’s "Hail Mary" attempt to close the game was one of pure exhilaration and relief.
A once winless Walker Valley team came into the Lions den and pulled out a thrilling 45-42 win on a Friday night where all three phases of the game were put together in the second half for Glen Ryan’s squad.
Coaches fell flat to the ground, tears were shed, the band spilled onto the field and players rejoiced after giving their all for 48 minutes to take down a fleet-footed opponent that came into play 5-1 overall.
A Mustang defense allowing 48 points per game this season was rather incredible in the second half, in which they totaled eight of its 12 tackles for loss and did not allow a single score for Red Bank.
“I can’t say enough about the job our players did and how our coaches got them ready this week,” WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. “They showed resiliency and kept fighting. They deserve this. This win was all a credit to a total team effort in all three phases of the game.”
Senior smash mouth defensive captains Isaiah Alston and Cody Duggan each provided crucial sacks to seal the deal late in the fourth quarter and both had three tackles for loss.
Meanwhile, the country’s fourth leading passer in yards was able to connect with the nation’s second leading receiver to set up a 23-yard field goal by sophomore Charlie Swafford for the win.
Gibson connected with his indestructible target in Zeke Westfield a program record 17 times for 310 yards (sixth most state history), 41 of which came as a short pass to the right sideline that Westfield raced and stiff armed his defender out-of-bounds at the Lions’ 18 with 2:38 left.
“Usually when I get the ball I try to play cautious because I am already banged up and I don’t want to get hurt,” said Westfield, who has five games with 10-plus catches and 12 touchdowns this season. “But I didn’t care right there. I was trying to get as many yards as I could and keep fighting. Sam Clements threw a great block for me on the edge.”
With 29 seconds left Swafford’s kick split the uprights on a night where he also was 6-for-6 on extra point attempts.
After keeping up with its tough road opponent with a 21-all tie after the first quarter, in which Gibson tallied his 100th career touchdown on his first of three scores to Westfield, a hole was dug soon after.
Trailing 42-28 with 5:06 left in the second quarter, Walker Valley (1-6) went into the halftime locker room down by two scores but still with hope.
“At halftime we told them look at every score Red Bank has, we’ve had just a little break down here and there,” Coach Ryan said. “I said we go out and all do our job in all three phases and we will win this football game. They all did that and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
After playing just two drives defensively in the first half, the Mustangs signal caller played every snap defensively in the second half along with Westfield in a “Hoops package” formed Monday at practice.
Gibson even played on special teams on a night he completed 25-of-48 for 400 yards and five scores (one interception), rushed the ball 20 times for 48 yards with a 2-yard score and had a game-high 10 solo tackles (12 total, one TFL) and two interceptions as a starting safety.
“It was a relief after I caught the final interception to close the game,” Gibson said. “I haven’t played both ways since middle school and I am sore everywhere right now. But if this is what it takes to win, I will be ready to play wherever needed.”
WV’s Alex Duke and Kole Hall each starred defensively with 11 and 13 tackles, respectively, and a combined four tackles for loss. Duke also had 88 yards on four kickoff returns.
Red Bank (5-2) had little to no running room in the second half as they were held to just 40 yards rushing and finished the game with a mere 3.1 yards per rush as Alston, Duggan and others crashed the backfield.
The Lions were halted on a big fourth-and-one on the Mustangs 17-yard line with 11:08 left in the fourth quarter and a one score differential.
Walker Valley’s defense finished with four sacks and forced a trio of three and outs to Red Bank, who was a mere 4-of-16 combined on third and fourth down conversions.
“For not known as being a very good defense, we shut them down in the second half and showed a lot of heart,” Alston said. “We hadn’t won a game since last year and no senior wants to go out in a winless season.”
Junior halfback Dylan Allender also helped set-up the game-winning field goal as he plowed for 11 yards after Westfield’s big catch to set up a first and goal.
Allender also busted his way up the middle earlier in the night for a 29-yard rush, which was the longest run by a Mustang running back this season. He finished with a team-high 60 rushing yards on seven carries.
With over 20 targets for Westfield through the air in the stunning victory, seniors Brock Gibson and Luke Wallace also flashed their athleticism.
Gibson hauled in an 11-yard touchdown to tie things at 21-all with 1:30 left in the first quarter as he fell to his knees to secure a low pass in the back of the endzone. He finished with 39 yards on three catches.
Wallace contributed the lone score of the third quarter as he fought his way open underneath the field goal post as the Mustang offensive line bought time for Gibson to throw.
A stellar offensive line has helped Gibson now throw for 2,520 passing yards (360 per game) this season and 27 touchdowns.
With 105 career touchdowns (80 passing, 25 rushing), Bradley County’s top gunslinger is now just one touchdown away from tying former Bradley Central star and current UTC starting quarterback Cole Copeland’s Southeast Tennessee record.
Gibson is on pace for 44 total touchdowns, 3,600 passing yards and 550 rushing yards. The uncommitted quarterback now has four games with over 400 yards passing this season and is averaging 511 yards per game (423 passing, 88 rushing) over his past four games.
Westfield’s 77 catches for 1,333 yards (4 200-plus yard games) are both second most in the country according to MaxPreps, as he is on pace for over 1,900 receiving yards in the regular season alone that would put him in the top four all-time in state history.
“Zeke is definitely one-of-a-kind,” Gibson said. “His frame and how hard he goes in the game is unreal. He has speed and he is 6-foot-5. He goes up for any ball and there is not another receiver I’d rather take.”
The state’s all-time record is 2,286 receiving yards by Coalfield’s Matthew Breeden in 1994.
Still searching for a playoff spot with a pair of region contests left against Knox Catholic next Friday at home and Soddy-Daisy (Oct. 27) on the road, Gibson and company will do whatever is needed.
Both will be tough tests against the Fighting Irish and Trojans who were ranked this past week and are a combined 9-6 overall.
Walker Valley 21 7 7 10 — 45
Red Bank 21 21 0 0 — 42
RB— David Cosby 76-yd pass from Madox Wilkey (kick failed), 10:59
WV —Zeke Westfield 16-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (Swafford kick), 10:10
WV— Westfield 17-yd pass from Gibson (Swafford kick), 8:48
RB — Zay Brown 12-yd run (2-point conversion Calvin Jackson), 7:56
RB — Brown 2-yd run (Velazquez kick), 3:59
WV — Brock Gibson 10-yd pass from Gibson (Swafford kick), 1:30
RB —Jackson 38-yd run (kick failed), 9:36
RB — Jackson 62-yd pass from Wilkey (2-point conversion Zay Brown), 8:05
WV — Westfield 44-yd pass from Gibson (Swafford kick), 7:24
RB — Brown 7-yd run (Velazquez kick), 5:05
WV —Luke Wallace 14-yd pass from Gibson (Swafford kick), 1:25
WV— Kolten Gibson 2-yd run (Swafford kick), 5:46
WV — Swafford 23-yd field goal, 0:29
First downs WV 21 RB 17
Rushes-yards WV 28-105 RB 44-138
Passing yards WV 400 RB 280
Total yards WV 505 RB 418
Comp-Att-Int WV 25-48-1 RB 13-22-2
Punts -Ave.WV 5-31 RB 4-34
Fumbles-Lost WV 1-0 RB 1-0
Penalties WV 6-67 RB 8-70
Dylan Allender 7-60
Kolten Gibson 20-48
Cody Duggan 1-3 (WV);
Zay Brown 3 TD runs, 120 yds (RB).
Kolten Gibson 25-48-1 400 5 TD (WV)
Madox Wilkey 13-22-2 280 2 TD (RB).
Zeke Westfield 17-310 3 TD
Brock Gibson 3-39
Sam Clements 3-21
Luke Wallace 1-14 TD
Dylan Allender 2-16 (WV);
Cosby 150 yds TD (RB).
Kole Hall 13 tackles (3 TFL)
Kolten Gibson 12 tackles 2 INT TFL
Alex Duke 11 tackles
Cody Duggan 9 tackles 3 TFL sack
Kallum Lowe 8 tackles
Kellar Carson 5 tackles TFL
Isaiah Alston 5 tackles 3 TFL 2 sacks (WV)
Walker Valley 1-6
Red Bank 5-2.
Walker Valley wide receiver Zeke Westield (2) stiff arms an opponent after a 41-yard gain late in the fourth quarter. The No. 2 leading receiver in the nation hauled in 310 of Kolten Gibson's 400 passing yards in a 45-42 win at Red Bank High School Friday night. (Banner Photo: Patrick MacCoon)