Walker Valley senior receiver Zeke Westfield carries a tackler with him down field in the Region 4-5A finale against Soddy-Daisy. The Mustangs hung in late, but fell 48-28 and just short of the playoffs. (Banner Photo: Patrick MacCoon)
Soddy-Daisy knew it would have its hands full against one of the best quarterbacks in the state as both sides battled for the final playoff spot in Region 4-5A.
While a 20-point fourth quarter broke a tie and ended Walker Valley’s season, senior dual-threat Kolten Gibson was still mesmerizing in a 48-28 loss to the Trojans Friday night.
“He has terrorized us for four years and is possibly the most talented quarterback in our state,” SDHS head coach Justin Barnes said after watching Gibson compile 417 total yards and pair of touchdowns. “You can never count Kolten out. He has nothing to hang his head about.”
At a first look of the Mustangs' final record of 1-9 this season, one would often not expect any significant accomplishments. But, Gibson proved otherwise.
Helping keep his side in games that otherwise might have been mercy-rule losses, Gibson led the state this regular season with 4,022 yards (3,341 passing, 681 rushing) and found the end zone 43 times.
“Kolten definitely needs to be in the running for Mr. Football and it would be a shame if he isn’t,” WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. “He’s the best quarterback I have ever had the honor of coaching. He’s got a big heart and has proven himself in so many ways.”
Even with a tough final season in the win-loss column, the Southeast Tennessee leader in career touchdowns (117) has enjoyed a career at Walker Valley where he finished in the top 10 of 14 different TSSAA records.
Gibson only finished 144 yards shy of the state record for most total yards in a career, as his 11,227 yards as a four-year starter were only second to Christian Academy of Knoxville’s Charlie High.
“These past four years have meant a lot to me,” Gibson said. “I have created a lot of great relationships with players and coaches and grown so much on and off the field. I don’t pay much attention to numbers, but when I reflect back on it now it is all pretty surreal.”
Also enjoying a breakout season and in the mix for all sorts of postseason awards is Mustang senior Zeke Westfield, who had 14 catches for 130 yards in the season finale.
The 6-foot-5 standout receiver, who has played with a partially torn PCL and ACL this season, finished with 109 catches (third state history) and 1,750 yards (fifth most) to go with 16 touchdowns.
Fellow senior Brock Gibson hauled in a pair of scores to make he and Westfield one of just two duos in the state to have over 10 touchdown catches apiece.
“No matter what the outcome, this season taught me how to always give 100 percent,” Westfield said. “It feels great to accomplish what we did on offense in the passing game, but I would take half of what I did if we were still to be playing next week.”
While the Mustangs had struggled most of the season to get a run game going outside of Gibson, who put forth four 100-yard rushing games, a major spark was provided by freshman running back Heath Tanksley.
With a head of steam and following a great push up front from the offensive line, WV’s lead junior varsity running back for much of the season broke out for 96 rushing yards on 19 carries to go along with five catches for 57 yards in just his second varsity start.
Tanksley recorded a pair of 1-yard touchdown plunges in the first quarter that gave the visitors a 14-0 lead going into the second quarter.
“Heath is definitely one of our major building blocks for the future,” Coach Ryan said. “We were able to really have a balanced offense tonight. We really like what we have seen out of Tank and another freshman this year in linebacker Kallum Lowe.”
The Gibson-to-Gibson connection struck for its second of the game and 10th touchdown of the season on a 20-yard pass to go ahead 28-21 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
Gibson finished with 35 catches for 622 yards in his only prep season.
However, wind was taken out of the Mustangs' sails as a recovery on an onside kick was called back right after Gibson’s score due to the defense touching the ball in mid-air before it hit the ground.
“The onside kick being called back really took a ton of momentum away from us,” Ryan said. “We would have had great field position and have gone up two scores very possibly.”
Soddy-Daisy went on to score the last 27 points of the game as Ty Boeck exceeded the 200-yard mark in rushing yards. Trojan quarterback Gavin Chambers threw a pair of touchdowns and scored with his legs with 3:42 left to take a 41-28 lead.
With a defense starting only one starter from last season, Walker Valley’s head coach was still proud of his team’s final stand.
The Mustangs were tied with the Trojans at the end of three quarters, but were unable to convert on crucial fourth down conversions in opponent territory in the final 12 minutes.
“I am very proud of this bunch,” Ryan said. “They came in here 1-8, but they played like this was a championship game. As long as you keep battling even when you’re down, you have a shot in this world. I hurt for them. It’s been a tough year, but I hope everyone can learn something from this and become stronger.”
WV senior linebacker Cody Duggan also concluded a stellar career with 112 total tackles including 12 tackles and a recovered a fumble in his last game. Kole Hall had seven tackles and 81 return yards on three chances.
With the next level approaching for Gibson and others, the Mustangs hope they are taken a chance on despite a record being misleading.
“I would love to play at the next level,” Gibson said. “I think I can bring a lot to the table. I know I can impact a quarterback room and can bring my dual threat ability as well.”
Gibson finished with the third most passing yards in a career with 9,399 and his 626 total yard performance against Stone Memorial is second is state history.
He completed 33-of-55 passes for 310 yards, while rushing 15 times for 107 yards against the Trojans who will take on Oak Ridge in the first round of the playoffs next Friday.
Walker Valley 14 7 7 0 — 28
Soddy-Daisy 0 21 7 20 — 48
WV — Heath Tanksley 1-yd run (Charlie Swafford kick), 5:51
WV — Tanskley 1-yd run (Swafford kick), 0:56
SD — Ty Boeck 28-yd run (kick good), 11:51
SD — Beau Blalock 14-yd pass from Gavin Chambers (kick failed), 7:29
WV — Brock Gibson 3-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (Swafford kick), 2:34
SD — Brandon Davis 7-yd run (Blalock 2-pt conversion pass from Chambers); 1:44
WV — Brock Gibson 20-yd pass from Kolten Gibson (Swafford kick), 5:26
SD — #9 20-yd TD run (kick good), 4:42
SD — Blalock 61-yd pass from Chambers (kick good), 10:28
SD — Chambers 11-yd run (kick failed), 3:42
SD — Boeck 79-yd run (kick good), 1:33
First downs WV 26 SD 18
Rushing-Yds WV 34-179 SD 35-346
Passing WV 299 SD 175
Comp-Att-Int WV 33-55-0 SD 10-18-0
Total yards WV 478 SD 521
Penalties WV 14-137 SD 5-50
Fumbles WV 0-0 SD 2-2
Kolten Gibson 14-107
Heath Tanksley 19-96
Gibson 33-55-0 310 2 TD
Zeke Westfield 14-130
Brock Gibson 6-49 2 TD
Caleb Grannan 4-39
Sam Clements 3-31
Luke Wallace 1-2
Cody Duggan 12 tackles FF FR
Kole Hall 7 tackles TFL,
Reid Abel 7 tackles
Kellar Carson 6 tackles
Kallum Lowe 6 tackles
Kolten Gibson 6 tackles TFL.
Walker Valley 1-9, 0-4 Region 4-5A
Soddy Daisy 6-4, 1-3 Region 4-5A.