Walker Valley pulled off a shocking upset last season over Red Bank, as Zeke Westfield went wild for 17 catches, 310 yards and three scores. The Mustangs did not allow a single point in the second half in their win. (Banner Photo: Patrick MacCoon)
Down 42-28 at halftime on the road against the No. 6 ranked team in Class 3-A, an improbable road comeback victory for Walker Valley over Red Bank last Oct. 6 is one many will never forget.
A previously trampled Mustang defense put the clamps down on the run and also brought strong pressure on the quarterback in the second half.
One of the most dynamic quarterbacks in Tennessee prep history was a force. Kolten Gibson accounted for six touchdowns and came up with 12 tackles with his second interception ending the Lions' prayers on a Hail Mary.
Not to mention, Zeke Westfield's 41-yard catch and run, highlighted by a powerful stiff arm, set up Charlie Swafford's decisive 23-yard field goal in the 45-42 victory.
A one-win team took down an eventual 11-win squad.
With Walker Valley set to host Red Bank this Friday night at 7:30, flashbacks can not be avoided for both sides.
"That was a big win for our program to go in there and knock off a team who advanced all the way to the state semifinals last season," WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. "That win along with our win over Bradley Central and playoff victory over Oak Ridge are some of the biggest our program has ever had."
Helping coach Cleveland High School's defense this time last year, first-year Lions head coach Chris Brown knows his team won't take the Mustangs lightly under his watch.
Red Bank (5-0) may currently rank third in Class 3A, with weapons all over the field, but they refuse to believe they can cruise to victory.
"We respect Walker Valley as a football program," Coach Brown said. "They play incredibly hard and this will be one of our toughest games yet. It's fresh to our guys what happened last year and the overconfidence they had. We haven't had to sell Walker Valley as a decent opponent this week."
While some heavy lifting pieces for the Mustangs may be gone this time around in a record setting quarterback-receiver connection, the game plan is the same as last year.
Find a way to control the speed of the Lions.
Senior athlete Calvin Jackson poses one of the most dangerous threats of any playmaker in the state.
The Wofford commit sat out the first two games of the season for Red Bank, who beat Chattanooga Central 23-20 in overtime with a field goal and then survived a 20-13 road victory over Signal Mountain.
Since returning, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound versatile threat has given his team Alvin Kamara-like results. Not only can Jackson cut and finesse his way through an opposing defense, but "run over" defenders as well.
In three games Jackson has carried the ball 27 times for 219 yards (8.1 yards per carry), while he has caught 16 passes for 174 yards out of the backfield. He has found the end zone seven times.
"Red Bank is so athletic," Coach Ryan said. "Calvin just tops the list. They are the most athletic team we've seen this season. We have to try to contain their speed once again."
Brown credits Jackson as being up there in the same class with talented players he has coached such as Keegan Jones and Rashun Freeman.
Walker Valley (0-6) will have to stop both phases of the Lion attack.
RB signal caller Maddux Wilkey has thrown for 170 yards and two touchdowns on average with a 10:3 TD-INT ratio. Wilkey will target Jackson often along with go-to wideout Lucas Brown Jr.
Brown has averaged a whopping 23.1 yards per catch with 12 receptions for 277 yards and four scores.
While the Mustangs have been defeated by an average margin of 33 points over its past five games after falling by 12 points to Chattanooga Central in the season opener, Ryan credits his groups effort.
Kallum Lowe (LB/FB), Kole Hall (LB/RB) and Clint Davis (OL/DL) have shown their versatility, logging consistent snaps on both sides of the field.
Lowe has 48 tackles and has forced two turnovers as the starting middle linebacker, while averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 122 rushing yards and two scores this season. Hall also has 41 tackles and ran for 55 yards and a score last week behind Davis and company.
"Our kids are playing hard and giving us all they've got," Ryan said. "I told them, anybody who has ever had success has been through hard times prior to it. They are going to go out there and fight again this week. We are working as a team to build on the positives and fix the negatives."
Dylan Jenkins is the leading tackler for WV with 53 stops, while Red Bank is led by trustworthy linebacker Clark Lockerby with 47 tackles (7 TFL, 2 sacks).
RB has forced 16 turnovers this season, while only giving the ball away three times on offense.
WV has forced 13 turnovers and allows 394 yards per game.
Both teams will have young talent all over the field.
The Lions start four sophomore offensive linemen, while the Mustangs' 22 starters are primarily sophomores and juniors.
"We respect Red Bank," Ryan said. "Coach Brown is doing a great job down there. They are a balanced team and are ranked high for a reason. Hopefully we can put ourselves in some good spots and hang tough."