McMinn Central receiver Tristian Castillo (9) goes up for a pass between Walker Valley defenders Zacc Shoemate (24) and Luke Anziano (29) during Friday's scrimmage at The Corral. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)
After an arduous week of brutal heat and five-hour days, the Walker Valley Mustangs wrapped up the 2019 version of camp week with a two-hour scrimmage against McMinn Central Friday evening.
It was the first look at the Mustangs for first-year head coach Drew Akins during a game-type situation with referees keeping an eye on the action.
Walker Valley has two more preseason games on the schedule before opening kickoff against Karns on Aug. 23. The Mustangs will be at Red Bank Friday before hosting Coffee County at home Aug. 15.
Akins said he was pleased for the most part with what he saw from the Mustangs. He noted a good job by the Walker Valley offense with the run game.
“We did some really good things offensively. When we had tempo we actually played really well. I don’t know who ended up scoring more, it doesn’t matter to me. What I saw was, when we’ve got tempo we have a real ability to make some plays,” he said.
“What I was really impressed with from the offensive standpoint today was we ran the ball really well, that’s nice to see," Akins added. "In practice when you’re not tackling it's kind of hard to see if you are able to really run the ball or not.”
The Mustangs faced another team in rebuild mode in McMinn Central, now under the guidance of Derrick Davis, former longtime head coach of the Polk County Wildcats. It was the first time in 19 years Davis has coached a team in colors other than red and white.
“If you came and watched us today, we had different color jerseys on as far as what you’ve seen out of teams I’ve been associated with, but I’m proud of these guys. It was a good first step,” he said just before the post-scrimmage debriefing.
The Chargers will be back on the gridiron in less than a week, looking to improve further.
“We’ve got another big challenge coming. We turn around and go to Tyner Tuesday. We’ll have another opportunity there to get better,” said Davis.
For Akins, the biggest letdown of the day was on the defensive side of the ball. The Mustangs gave up several big plays to the Chargers on the ground with missed tackles and mental mistakes. Learning to consistently plug gaps was a focus of Akins’ post-game assessment.
The head Herdsman was pleased with the team’s knowledge of schemes and getting to the ball. The problems, he said, came from too many arm tackles and not enough body contact, as well as filling gaps between opposing players, or "fit."
“Defensively, we would fit, we would fit, we would fit then we’d miss a fit. Anytime you miss a fit against a team that’s disciplined and doing what they have to do, it’s going to be a big play. The only other thing that I saw out of our defense that I was disappointed in was our ability to tackle. We’ve got to quit reaching. We’ve got to bring our bodies to the play,” said the coach.
“But, flying around, understanding schemes, understanding fits we did a really good job. We made plays at the defensive line where we should have made plays. We’ve just got to fix those little details on the fits and be consistent with them. Once we get to the party we’ve got to bring the wood and make sure we have a little lead in our pencil so we are ready to go make a tackle.”
Akins said the team closed on a high note with a decent first outing to close camp. The Mustangs will take a final weekend to rest before a Monday film session and will fall into the season practice routing Tuesday.
“Anytime you get to see another color jersey it’s a good thing. We got two hours of really good work against a quality opponent. Coach Davis has done a great job. You can see a difference in that program. This (scrimmage) was fun to see. Anytime you get to see another opponent, it’s a good way to end your week,” Akins said. “We have been grinding with five-hour days, this was a nice way to end by getting out here and competing. It was something to look forward to.”
Walker Valley quarterback Tucker Pope, back, eyes a receiver as McMinn Central's Jackson Locke (75) is blocked by a Mustang lineman during scrimmage action Friday, at Walker Valley. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)