Walker Valley running back Griffin Broome (2) gained 90 yards on just nine carries and scored twice in the Mustangs' 69-30 victory over Cumberland County Friday evening at "The Corral." (Banner Photo: Nikki Swafford)
Kole Hall rushed for 141 yards and Tucker Pope shredded the Cumberland County defense, throwing for 358 yards as the Mustangs completed the longest game in Walker Valley football history with a non-region win over the Jets Friday at "The Corral."
With the Mustangs holding onto a 40-24 lead with 3:21 left in the third quarter, the game was halted due to lightning and the teams headed to the locker room to wait, and wait, and wait.
It would be some three hours and 50 minutes before the teams returned to the field to complete the game, that finally concluded at 1 a.m. Saturday, with the Mustangs walking away with their first home win since 2016, a 69-30 homecoming victory.
The 69 points set a Walker Valley record for the most points scored by a Mustang offense. The Herd put up 68 against Cleveland in 2016.
"It was a big win. I am really excited for our kids. Where we are as a program, nothing is going to be easy. Even when things are going good, it's not going to be easy,” said Mustangs' head coach Drew Akins. “We were up 40-24 and we get a four-hour lightning delay. Even when things are going good it's hard on us right now because of where we are as a program.”
The Mustangs (2-3) overcame an early 8-0 deficit to the Jets (0-6) with two touchdowns in three plays to take a 13-8 lead.
Pope hooked up with Noah Duprey for 58 yards for the first score on a 2-play set. On the first play from scrimmage after the Mustang's kick, Bryce Hixson scooped up a Jets fumble and rumbled 18 yards for the TD.
A snap over Cumberland County quarterback Trevor Parson's head on the Jet's next play led to a recovery by the Mustangs at the Jets' 12-yard line. Pope called his own number on the first play from scrimmage an put Walker Valley out front 21-7 completing a series of downs that saw the Mustangs put up 21 points in four plays.
“He had a great night. He is starting to really take hold of this offense,” praised Akins. “He's only run this offense for four games before last night. We have this high expectation for him, but he's learning in this offense."
“I think we are going to continue to see him grow and mature and learn new things about the offense and how the offense works. I was really proud of his night.”
Griffin Broome and Hall capped the 20-point second quarter with scoring runs of three and 10 yards, upping the Mustangs' lead to 33-8.
Cumberland County came back to cut it to 33-16 with a score with just over a minute left in the half.
The Mustangs covered a Cumberland County fumble on a punt at the Jet's 7-yard line as the rain began to fall to open the third quarter. After a Walker Valley holding penalty, Pope connected with Brody Swafford for 16 yards to put the Mustangs on top 40-16.
The Jets answered with a 79-yard run by Parsons to make it 40-24.
A Cumberland County punt midway through the third quarter set the Mustangs up on their own 18-yard line where Pope quickly found Duprey for 30 yards. Hall grabbed 30 more on a blast through the Jets' defense and a 13-yard catch by Swafford saw Walker Valley with a first-and-goal at the Cumberland 9-yard line with 3:21 left in the quarter.
The Mustangs waited nearly four hours after the lengthy delay for Hall to cover the last nine yards on the first play from scrimmage after the break. The 2-point conversion made it a 48-24 game.
Akins said the plan before the delay was to throw the ball, but when he discovered during the break Hall has already amassed 90 yards on eight carries the plan changed to a consistent running attack. Hall went on to rack up 51 more yards on the night.
“Any time you are over 140 yards and you score four touchdowns it's a special night for a kid,” said Akins. Our kids came out with a bunch of energy and a bunch of excitement. It was fun to be a part of.”
The Jets once again answered with a Jacob Grenga run of 66 yards to close the margin to 48-30.
From there it was all Mustangs as Hall scored his third TD of the night from 1-yard out. Broome carried his second score of the night across the goal line late in the fourth quarter to put Walker Valley on top 62-30.
Hall put the Mustangs up by 39 points midway through the fourth with his fourth TD, giving Walker Valley a 69-30 lead and a continuous clock that brought the game to an “early” conclusion.
“It kind of got weird. We had already given up 24 before the lightning delay. We scored on the first play (after the delay). We kicked off to them and they scored on the second play. But, after that it was over. They didn't get much of anything,” Akins acknowledged.
“It's there for us (defensively). On offense we are six months ahead of where the defense is. They are learning. They are learning on the job. They didn't get a whole lot of training in this scheme before having to go out on the field and the perform. I think we are going to continue to see progress from them.”
The Mustangs will be looking to take a step toward hosting a playoff game Friday, when they travel to Lenoir City for a critical Region 4-5A contest.
“Next week is a big game. All these non-region games, it's nice to win them, but a region game matters,” said Akins. “We have a goal to host a playoff game. We've already made the playoffs so let's try to host one. In order to do that this game is critical. We're are excited about the chance to go up there. I'm excited to get back on the field with our kids and give them a chance to win a region ballgame.”
To be able to host an opening round playoff game, the Mustangs need a victory over the 1-5 Panthers Friday and to knock off Soddy-Daisy (2-3) in the regular season finale on Nov. 1.
Walker Valley defenders Dylan Jankins (21and Mikey Humphries (41), along with another teammates, drag down a Cumberland County ball carriers during Friday evening's 69-30 Mustang victory at "The Corral." (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)