The Walker Valley defense swarms a Rhea County runner during last week's matchup, in Evensville. After a week off, the Mustangs are back to work Friday with a road trip to Sparta to meet the White County Warriors (Banner Photo: James Ross).
Walker Valley head coach Drew Akins is not a big fan of early season bye-weeks. But, he was happy to see the Mustangs get a needed break after Week 3 of the season to heal up and rest up after a grueling fall camp and some tough early-season games.
“Typically I don't like and early bye-week because it's such a long season. But, I think the bye-week hit at at good spot for us,” said Akins. “We've kind of got some bumps and bruises healed up from camp. We had a pretty strenuous camp this year and the first three games were pretty physical games with Rhea County and Bradley. I think it kind of re-energized our coaching staff, reenergized our kids and we’re ready to get back on the field.”
The Mustangs (1-2) return to work Friday on the road in Sparta looking for win No. 2 against 2-2 White County.
The Warriors are led by senior quarterback Sedryk Leftwich who Akins feels is the catalyst behind a powerful offensive line.
“They've got an athletic quarterback. That's the first thing we noticed when we started watching them. He can play. They are big up front, very big up front. They just kind of lean on you. They play really aggressive on defense. Their front is very aggressive.
Akins is expecting the Mustangs to see a defensive line with seven Warriors looking to put a great deal of pressure on Walker Valley QB Tyler Pope. The Mustangs’ field general is more than capable of going over the top to beat the pass rush. The key will be a positive night for Pope and his receivers.
“The plan is, if they are going to have an extra hat in the box we've got to be able to throw the football. I think we gained some confidence late against Rhea County. Tucker threw for more than 350 yards and we had six different receivers catch the football. I think that builds a lot of confidence in what we're trying to do,” said Akins.
“They play man coverage a lot. They try to get to you with their front seven before you can do your route concepts. We are going to have to have a good week at receiver. We're going to have to make sure we win at receiver. It's hard to run the ball against someone who puts seven in the box. Once we add we add an extra hat running the ball, they are always going to have an extra unblocked hat. They are so aggressive that they do a pretty good job stopping the run.”
When on defense, the Mustangs must close gaps and keep Leftwich and his stable of running backs in check.
“Defensively, we've got to key on stopping their quarterback and stopping the run,” said the Walker Valley coach. “If we can get them into passing downs, we have a pretty good opportunity to stop them. If they are in short yardage all night we are going to have trouble.”
Akins feels his Mustangs are moving closer to becoming a successful football team. He liked what he saw from his team late against a solid Rhea County team and feels confidence continues to build as the Mustangs move forward rested and healed.
“We knew going into the bye-week 1-2 was possible. We were hoping for 2-1 and gave Rhea County a really good look at it. Coming off Rhea County and the confidence built at the end of that game and realizing that we played with them and had a chance at the end, it kind of helped our mentality. Then we had a week where we could just work on us and remind them of the things we do best,” he said.
“We didn't focus much on White County over the bye-week, we just kind of focused on us. I think that built the confidence up. We have a really confident football team right now. Even coming off two losses we've got a lot of confidence in what we're doing. I think the end of the Rhea County game is going to kind of spill over into the rest of the season.”
Akins emphasized the progress he saw with his defensive unit against Rhea. He feels the Mustangs are just a piece or two away from becoming a solid unit.
“I really see our defense coming on. To hold the offense at Rhea County like we did; They don't have the usual speed they normally have, but they are still Rhea County. They've still got a great offensive line. They still have a great scheme. To be able to hold them to 27 points and even with our offense kind of sputtering early, our defense really kept us in that game,” he said. “I can really see our defense coming on. I see them gaining a lot of confidence. When you add Kallum Lowe back into the mix, he is probably a week or two away from getting back onto the field on Friday night, I really see our defense having a great second half of the season when you start adding pieces like that back in.
“It's exciting to see.”
Walker Valley running back Kole Hall (3) runs against a Rhea County defender last week, in Evensville. Hall and the Mustangs will be on the road Friday looking for win No. 2 when the face off against white County, in Sparta. (Banner Photo: James Ross)