Walker Valley gunslinger Kolten Gibson has put forth one of the best regular seasons by any quarterback in the state this season. The Mustangs can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Soddy-Daisy on the road Friday night. (Banner Photo: Paul Pruett)
Walker Valley and Soddy-Daisy will throw their season records aside as the spotlight shines bright with a final playoff spot up for grabs in Region 4-5A Friday night.
Senior quarterback Kolten Gibson will try to navigate the Mustangs to not only another big outing through the air for a nationally ranked passing attack, but another surprise on the road as well.
Both sides enter with 0-3 region records, so the winner automatically takes the guaranteed playoff spot with an undisputed fourth-place finish out of five teams.
“I expect it to be a battle and a great football game,” WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. “I think it’s two fairly evenly matched teams going head-to-head with a lot at stake. This could be the last game our seniors ever play. There are no guarantees, so we need to lay it all on the line.”
While Walker Valley (1-8) has averaged 34 points per game this season, Soddy-Daisy (5-4) averages 38 points led by all-around threat Ty Boeck.
“We have to know where Ty Boeck is at all times,” Ryan said. “He is in the backfield most of the time, but he can go up as a receiver as well. He is a great athlete and we can’t let him get loose on us. We have to try and take him away, but also work on stopping several other playmakers.
The two sides have combined to score more than 42 points nine times this season, but have also seen defensive lapses.
The Mustangs enter allowing 50 points per game and have allowed over 60 on three occasions.
“Both of us have scored a lot of points, but we have given up a lot as well,” Ryan said. “It’s going to come down to who gets the stops and who takes care of the ball on the offensive side. We are here in Week 10 and looking to finally put our best complete game forth with our playoff lives on the line.”
With hopes to clinch a second straight playoff berth, Gibson looks to continue his legacy on the gridiron.
East Tennessee’s leading gunslinger ranks second in the state and 14th nationally as he has thrown for 3,042 yards (338 per game) and is first in the state with 41 total touchdowns (34 passing, 7 rushing) and first with 3,616 total yards (402 per game).
Gibson’s continued success over four years at the helm has him ranked in the TSSAA record books in several categories: second in total yards (10,821), fourth in passing yards (9,100) and tied for fourth in career points (690) with a Southeast Tennessee record 115 total touchdowns (87 passing, 28 rushing).
He needs 351 yards through the air against the Trojans to finish in the Top 10 in state history for most passing yards in a season, and six total touchdowns to break into the top 10 leaders in touchdowns in a single season.
“Kolten is a great guy on and off the field,” WV senior tight end Sam Clements said. “He always puts in the work. He is the first one here and the last one to leave. He consistently watches film and is a great quarterback.”
Being a part of a nationally ranked passing attack has surprised Clements, who played offensive line his first three seasons.
He has been the second most targeted receiver in the aerial attack behind Zeke Westfield (1,503 receiving yards), who ranks eighth in state history with 91 catches this season and is just 210 yards away from a top five all-time season by a receiver in state history.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound halfback/tight end has reeled in 49 catches for 436 yards and five touchdowns to become a surprise in the passing attack.
Brock Gibson has been stellar as well with 29 catches for 573 yards and eight scores, while Caleb Grannan and Luke Wallace have combined for seven scores.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” said Clements of being a part of the state’s second-ranked passing attack. “We didn’t expect to throw this much this season, but we’ve rolled with it and have to really make a difference this week again.”
With an upset road victory this season over Red Bank, in which Walker Valley’s defense pitched a shutout after allowing 42 points in the first 17 minutes, another upset is not out of the question.
Not only able to put up blistering numbers through the air, Kolten Gibson also has three 100-yard rushing performances this season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry (120-574).
His offensive line will also look to buy him some time.
“Hunter Raines and Koby Hooker have done a great job for us on the offensive line this season,” Ryan said. “They don’t get their name in the paper a lot, but they have been great leaders and kept us upbeat.”
Cody Duggan (100 tackles) will lead a WV defense that also looks to stop the run first with the help of lineman Isiah Alston and Isaiah Morris.
With complete disregard to what has happened the past nine weeks, the Mustangs and Trojans are set for a major clash.
The winner will take on either Fulton or Oak Ridge in the first round of the playoffs next week.
“We would be the first team I’ve ever heard to be 2-8 and make the playoffs if we can find a way to win,” Clements said. “We embrace this opportunity and feel like we are mentally prepared to go to battle. We all want to win for one another.”