Walker Valley running back Kole Hall (3) looks for room behind his offensive line against Lenoir City. The Mustangs will be looking for their fourth win of the season and third in a row Friday, at Marion County. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts).
The Walker Valley Mustangs are riding a little taller in the saddle these days. Winning football games will cause that.
The Mustangs will be looking to keep riding tall and extend a two-game winning streak to three when they line up against Marion County on Friday.
“We're riding a wave of momentum. We can't let it crash, we just have to keep that wave going," said head coach Drew Akins. "The way we're practicing right now and the way we're showing up every day and learning. The way we are so efficient right now we are going through it (practice) early. That tells us that our kids are learning and learning how to practice. When they practice with tempo it gets done early.
“They are doing everything the right way, we've just got to keep it rolling from the mentality standpoint,” Akins noted.
The 3-3 Mustangs will be taking on a Warriors team that has fallen on some tough times this season. But, Akins and staff have been pressing the Mustangs not to overlook the proud program with a history of winning.
“Anytime you deal with a historic program, no matter what the record is, you turn on the film and see they've got kids who can play. They've got kids who are really athletic, they have good-size kids and you can't look at records and take for granted who they actually are. When you watch them on film they are putting it together just like we are,” he said.
“Marion County is a great program. We are going to have a great test with it being fall break and a long trip," Akins added. "They are all distractions and they are distractions you have to overcome.”
Akins praised his counterpart, Marion head coach Joey Mathis, as a “great coach” who will do his best to have his players in the best situation for success.
“We're not taking them for granted. You can't take for granted going and playing a game. If you don't go and play the game and things go poorly it's hard to flip the switch," said Akins. "Our kids understand the switch has always got to be flipped no matter who you are playing. That's how you keep from playing down to poor opponents and how to keep from getting intimidated by big opponents.
“You just do your job,” he stated. "Our kids are doing a really good job of that right now.”
Akins said for the Mustangs to continue to be successful, a steady combination of runs and passes are working pretty well.
“We've got to continue to be balanced offensively. When you look at our offense on first down we are exactly 50% run/pass. That's a huge part of why we're being successful right now," said Akins. "On first down you can't tell what we are going to do. There is just as much chance of a pass as a run and you have to defend both.”
Another key to success for the Herd is continuing to utilize the plethora of receivers quarterback Tucker Pope has to choose from. Noah Duprey, Brody Swafford, Griffin Broome, Reid Gibson, Daniel Denton, Kole Hall and Cole Harbison have all had completions from Pope.
“When you have that many people who can make a play at any moment it becomes really successful,” said Akins.
Walker Valley will be going against a Wing-T offense that may be struggling a bit this season, but has seen a great deal of success over the years.
“On defense we just have to be tough,” related Akins. “When you lay a Wing-T offense toughness is a huge part of what you do. It's one of the five words we are trying to be focused in on. We have to be tough mentally to get lined up and tough physically to take the pounding of what a Wing-T offense brings and what a 'valley team' brings.”
The Mustangs' coach went on to say “valley kids” are a different breed of athlete and their toughness must be matched.
With three wins under their collective belt this season, the Mustangs are hungry for more and Akins said if they continue to be eager and enthusiastic as well as play to their potential, they have a very good chance for win No. 4 Friday.
“If we continue on the path we're on, and we never talk win/loss, and play with the excitement we are playing with and really play with the discipline we are playing with I like our chances against anybody,” said Akins. “We're going to be in competitive games if we do what we're supposed to do. I expect us to be competitive. I expect us to go over and put a good product on the field. We will look at the scoreboard at the end and see what happened.
“When we play with great effort, we're a tough team to deal with no matter who is across the ball.”
Walker Valley Mustangs Daniel Cartee (20) and Dylan Jenkins (21) make a stop against Lenoir City. The Mustangs will be on the road against the Warriors of Marion County Friday (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts).