Senior Mustang receiver Brock Gibson (24) has been a nice surprise this season, with three 100-yard games. He and a pass-heavy offense will go up against a run-heavy McMinn County team for Senior Night at WVHS this Friday at 7:30 p.m. (Banner Photo: Paul Pruett)
When Kolten Gibson returned for his senior season at Walker Valley High School, he knew the circumstances.
After a memorable junior year and the best season in program history for Mustang football, which included an upset playoff victory over the state’s No. 1 ranked 5-A team in Oak Ridge, a revamping was in store after the loss to graduation of 14 key senior starters.
Despite the departure of WV’s all-time leading receiver in Cooper Melton, along with a key backfield force in Alex King, a duo that combined for 72 touchdowns, Gibson has been able to put forth a career best season.
Looking for a win on Senior Night against McMinn County Friday night, the gunslinger will look to keep slinging to a group of receivers who have indeed surprised after the unit lost Bryce Nunnelly, Zach Eslinger and Melton.
“My receivers this season have really worked hard and grown so much from where they were in spring football practice,” Gibson said. “Zeke (Westfield) has been very impressive with all the numbers he has put up, and how he has played the whole season hurt.”
Currently, the dual-threat signal caller ranks eighth in the country with 2,861 passing yards, 11th in total yards (3,308) and leads the state with 37 total touchdowns. Last week Gibson broke the Southeast Tennessee career touchdown record and now has 111 combined prep scores.
Westfield is fourth in the country and first in the state with 1,395 receiving yards (14 TD; 175 yds. per gm.) and his 85 catches rank third in the country and first in the state.
Both could have a big day once again against the Cherokees (2-6), who allowed seven catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns to UTC commit and BCHS receiver Lameric Tucker and 280 passing yards and five touchdown passes for Dylan Standifer.
However, also playing major factors in the aerial attack have been seniors Brock Gibson and Sam Clements.
“The biggest surprise to me this season has been the play of Brock and Sam,” their quarterback said.
“Neither one of them have played receiver before this season, and they have combined for double-digit touchdowns.”
Gibson, a 6-foot-3 surprisingly quick deep threat on the outside, is third in Bradley County behind two nationally ranked receivers with 29 catches for 573 yards (19.8 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns.
Helping lead when Westfield has been double-covered or simply running a great route, Gibson has 100-yard games to show against Chattanooga Central, Stone Memorial and Knox Catholic.
Meanwhile, Clements leads all tight ends in the area with 43 catches (2nd team) as the quick out and over the middle target has rumbled for 379 yards and five touchdowns.
Gibson previously had played basketball only, while Clements was an offensive lineman.
Luke Wallace and Caleb Grannan have taken advantage of opportunities for a combined four receiving scores.
While the passing attack will once again be in full force a week after attempting a program most 53 passes, Walker Valley (1-7) will have to control the line of scrimmage against a Wing-T Cherokee offense.
Kolten Gibson will continue to play at safety where he has 15 tackles in two starts and a 12-tackle, two-interception performance in the Mustangs' lone win of the season, over Red Bank.
Safety blitzes could once again work well to stop a run-heavy offense.
“It’s a little different not being able to come off the field (as a two-way player), and waking up in the mornings not being able to move because of how sore I am,” Gibson said. “We have to do whatever it takes. A Senior Night win would be huge. We want to end our last game at Walker Valley on a high note.”
Senior lineman Cody Duggan (87 tackles, 10 TFL) will also have to provide a constant force in the backfield, as the Mustangs hope to be better than the 248 yards they allow per game on the ground.
McMinn County is fresh off a 35-14 win against William Blount and proved it can be tough to handle earlier this year when it only trailed Farragut by a score entering the fourth quarter.
Nonetheless, look for the Mustangs to light up the night air in a battle between two completely opposite offenses.