Walker Valley senior wide receiver Zeke Westfield is second in the nation with 77 catches for 1,333 yards in just seven games. The Mustangs' passing attack as a whole ranks among the best in the country as well. (Banner File Photo)
With over a million high school football players in the United States, Bradley County is home to some of the top playmakers in the country.
For a pair of quarterbacks and their favorite go-to targets, a Walker Valley and Bradley Central duo have made opposing defenses break down all season long.
Senior Zeke Westfield, the Mustangs' version of Randy Moss, has amazed with 77 catches for 1,333 yards and 12 touchdowns.
According to MaxPreps.com he is ranked second in the country in receptions and receiving yards, many of which he makes after first contact as well. No other receiver in the nation with over 1,000 yards has topped his average of 190.4 yards per game.
“It helps to have a great quarterback like Kolten Gibson,” said Westfield, who will suit up tonight for a 7:30 home kickoff with Knox Catholic. “But I am not worried about being one of the best receivers in the country. I am just worried about the wins.”
Both Westfield and Gibson put forth incredible performances in a 45-42 win last week against Red Bank, as they connected for 310 yards through the air (sixth most state history over 17 connections and combined for 15 tackles on defense.
It was the first win of the season for WV, whose young defense has allowed 48 points per game.
The game script has made Walker Valley’s star quarterback average 41 passing attempts per game.
The senior gunslinger has taken full advantage of his opportunities and ranks seventh in the country with 2,520 passing yards (360 per game) and has a 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio (27-9).
Also his team's leading rusher, Gibson has averaged 511 yards (423 passing, 88 rushing) per game and 5.75 touchdowns over his past four games. In that stretch he totaled 626 yards and accounted for eight touchdowns in a loss against Stone Memorial.
“It is definitely really cool to be in the top 10 in the nation in passing,” said Gibson, who is tied for first in touchdown passes and is second in the state in passing yards behind Shelbyville Central’s Grayson Tramel (2,743). “It’s a credit to the whole offense and the offensive line.”
Gibson has slung 90 percent of his passing yards to seniors Zeke Westfield (12 touchdowns, 1,333 yards), Brock Gibson (8 touchdowns, 469 yards) and Sam Clements (3 touchdowns, 351 yards).
With three regular season games left, Westfield is on pace for 1,904 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns.
What is rather shocking about Westfield’s’ feats this year is that he could finish with one of the top-3 best seasons ever by a wide receiver in state history, even if the Mustangs don’t make the playoffs.
Outside of opponents named Bradley Central, he is averaging 212.7 yards per game. If he can meet that total in his last three games he will finish with 1,971 yards and finish in second-place all-time ahead of former Knoxville Christian Academy standouts Davis Howell (1,947) and Josh Smith (1,911).
Westfield hopes the second half shutout posted by Walker Valley’s defense against Red Bank can build momentum. The Mustangs' playoff lives will all come down to an Oct. 27 road meeting with Soddy-Daisy, as the winner will clinch a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, Bradley Central’s star wide receiver is on pace to even outperform his record-setting junior season.
Tucker has proven to be rather uncatchable at times this season.
With 4.4 speed to burn an opposing defensive back at any given time on a go route or a spin move that can make tacklers look silly on a screen pass, Tucker’s 5.7 catches per game may be lower his 7.6 per game last season but he has shown improvements.
The UTC football commit is ranked third among wideouts in the state, who have at least 20 catches, in yards per reception (23.9). He is averaging 7.9 yards per catch more than last season along with 15 more yards per game (136).
With 40 catches for 958 yards, he is fourth in the state in yards and 33rd in the country.
Tucker is on pace for 1,642 yards and for 20 touchdowns this season at a 12-game rate
“I love the fire my quarterback Dylan Standifer plays with ,and the grit he has about him,” Tucker said. “He continuously finds ways to raise his game and be more competitive every week.”
Standifer ranks sixth in the state with 1,908 passing yards and is second in completion percentage (.720) among quarterbacks with over 100 pass attempts.
Tucker is also coming off a huge game last week as he had 191 receiving yards (fourth most school history) and a pair of touchdowns in a comeback victory over Soddy-Daisy.
Just 39 yards away from the 3,000-yard receiving plateau for his career, 19 catches away from 200 and two receiving scores away from 30, Tucker hopes he is remembered as more than just the program’s greatest receiver of all time.
“I want to leave my legacy as Bradley Central’s greatest leader,” Tucker said. “I not only try to lead on the field and at practice, but mentor the younger players off the field like a big brother should. At the end of the day we are all family.”
Cleveland’s Thunder and Lightning
Senior running back Keegan Jones and Micaleous Elder have formed one of the scariest one-two threats in the state, of late.
Over the Blue Raiders past three games, the speedsters have combined for 683 rushing yards, 350 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns.
Jones has rushed for 253 and 191 yards over his previous two games, his last against Maryville.
Despite only six yards against William Blount and not playing against Knox Catholic, Jones has 885 rushing yards on 85 carries (10.4 yards per carry) and 13 total touchdowns.
After zero touchdowns through Cleveland’s first three games, Elder has 15 touchdowns in his last five games.
The do-it-all junior slot receiver/running back has 66 carries for 463 yards and 26 catches for 471 yards. He has had back-to-back games with three receiving scores.
Both rare talents are averaging well over 100 yards per game and could help carry the Blue Raiders in the postseason.
Walker Valley’s Cody Duggan averages a Bradley County best 11.7 tackles per contest while splitting time between linebacker and defensive end.
Bradley Central’s Jay Person leads the county with seven sacks, while teammate Kevin Gentry and Cleveland’s Chase Oliver come in second with five.
Polk County’s Austin Watson leads the county with six takeaways.