Walker Valley sophomore wide receiver Brody Swafford makes a catch in the season opener against Chattanooga Central. The Mustangs will host a Region 4-5A battle against Lenoir City on Friday night at 7:30. (Banner File Photo: Patrick MacCoon)
The news is not all bad for the Walker Valley Mustangs, who in week six are still looking for win No. 1. In a region that contains only five teams, the Mustangs still have a shot at reaching postseason football, if they can pull off a win Friday night.
The Mustangs (0-5) will line up in the Toby McKenzie Football Complex against a Lenoir City team that has seen its own share of hardship, and sports a 2-4 (1-1 Region 4-5A) record. The Panthers pulled a win over Soddy-Daisy, but have fallen on hard times since.
“It’s tough right now,” said Mustangs coach Glen Ryan, “But, there is still a lot to play for. We’ve still got five games left. We still can make the playoffs. We’ve got a big one this week.”
Win or not, Ryan looks at Friday’s matchup as a chance for the Mustangs to get better as a team.
“We’ve got five games left; that’s five games to get better,” said Ryan, who is hoping for a solid ending and a playoff berth for his seniors. “In our region, one game can get you in.”
Ryan is pushing his Mustangs to heat up as the regular season edges nearer to a close with the knowledge that a win opens the possibility of a playoff game and two wins virtually guarantees an appearance.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, its how you finish,” he said. “That’s the whole thing with the playoffs. Wins will help with home field and things like that, but getting there is the main goal."
The Mustangs have been in the same boat as the rest of the region when it comes to Mother Nature. The deluge of rain this week has made it difficult to conduct much-needed outdoor practices. And then there’s the injury bug that has occasionally bitten the Herd.
“You get this weather and that hinders our practices, or you get somebody hurt or sick. There is a lot of outside stuff that we can’t control. We’ve got to start catching a break sooner or later, and having some positives happen,” Ryan stated.
One main fact the Mustangs are very aware of is that the Panthers are not going to feel sorry for any troubles Walker Valley has. With a playoff spot on the line, Lenior City will be giving the Mustangs all they want in order to grab a slot for itself.
“They are going to feel sorry for us. Not one bit,” said a matter of fact Ryan. “We’ve got to put it all together. We’ve got to go out and we’ve got to play. We’ve got to play for each other and play hard. Every group has go to do that.”
Ryan said he senses the Walker Valley defense is coming together as a solid unit. In last week’s loss to Cleveland, the Mustangs only gave up one score defensively in the first half. Offensively, he said the unit went backward. After a bad punt gave the Blue Raiders a short field, leading to a score, WV then turned it over on an interception just before halftime that led to a third TD.
“I feel defensively we are close. Worst case it should have been 14-0 at halftime. Our offense has showed spurts, but has played very inconsistent,” he acknowledged.
The lack of offensive production has led to some changes by Ryan and staff both schematically and in personnel. The difficulty in planing for the Panthers arises unknown being which Lenoir City team will arrive on campus, the team the beat Soddy-Daisy or one that has lost three straight.
“We’ve made some changes to help our offense get going and be able to move the ball and not playing the defense on the field the whole time, he said of the moves he hopes will produce positive results. We went to try and simplify us down and help our young linemen get better and give ourselves a chance.”
“This is a team that beat Soddy then Soddy turned around and beat (Knoxville) Catholic and this team hasn’t won since the Soddy win. They beat a good Soddy team, but haven’t don’t anything since. That’s the unknown right now.”
Ryan said it is obviously going total an all-out effort by the Mustangs Friday and he is looking mainly for offensive output from a unit that has only put up 54 points so far..
“I want the offense to go out, move the ball and put points on the board. I feel like of we can just start putting points on the board we give ourselves a chance. We’ve not been able to move the ball and our defense is out there all the time. If that happens it is going to be a rough night,” he admitted.”
“I want to see us take better care of the ball on offense. We are going to have to if we are going to score. But, the big thing is I just want to see our offense be productive.”