Walker Valley running back Spencer Jackson crosses midfield on a run against Marion County Friday, in Jasper. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)
JASPER — Walker Valley coach Drew Akins has been waiting for the Mustangs to come out of the gate running all season. They came close in a win last week against Lenoir City, but is wasn't the complete game Akins was looking for.
Friday against Marion County Akins got what he was looking for. The Mustangs (4-3) came out of the gate, ran right into the end zone on their first possession, tacked on 14 more first-quarter points and never looked back in a 41-point shutout over Marion County.
Walker Valley has now won three in a row and will be looking for a fourth straight Friday at home against East Hamilton.
“Our message to them was no matter what happens believe you can win because the belief is going to make you start fast. We're starting to believe we can compete with anybody. When you believe that you start fast,” said a pleased Akins. “When you don't believe that you have to feel it out and kind of see how the other team is. We're not doing that anymore, we're saying we've got this, lets go. Let's go take it from the opening whistle. We did that tonight.”
Kole Hall was again the workhorse for the Mustangs scoring three first-quarter touchdowns on rushes of 20, 13 and 19 yards.
Touchdown No. 2 was set up with a fumble recovery by Bryce Hixson at the Warriors' 36-yard line.
Led by quarterback Tyler Pope, The Mustangs moves 84 yards for the fourth score of the night with Pope ending a string of five consecutive incompletions with a 21-yard connection to Daniel Denton that opened a 28-0 lead.
Brody Swafford set the Mustangs up in good shape with a fumble recovery and return to the Marion County 5-yard line. A quick toss from Pope to Noah Duprey made it a 35-0 game giving the Mustangs a running clock in the second half.
Akins was particularly pleased with the defensive effort from the Mustangs who came through with an interception and two fumble recoveries, one of which was recovered by Kendrick Cox on a 35-yard scoop-and-score early in the third quarter that made it a 41-0 game.
The Mustangs held the Warriors to only six first downs and 146 yards of total offense.
He was also largely happy with the second line defense that played the majority of the second half and came up with a stop on a fourth down with the Warriors at the Mustangs' 21-yard line that preserved the shutout.
“I've got to praise our defense. They kept us in great situations all night and they put us in situations where we could score quick. Holding them to zero is a great accomplishment. I'm so proud for our defense. They see the progress they've made,” Akins lauded.
“They got a big gain inside the 30 and we're subbing in and asking our guys to hold a zero (score) for the older guys and they bowed their backs and made a couple of plays behind the line of scrimmage. They gave us the opportunity to keep a zero on the board.”
The Mustangs have a tougher job ahead of them this week as 5-2 East Hamilton rolls into “The Corral.” Akins said his team need to feed off recent success and continue to grow and progress.
“They like winning. I'm so happy that we are able as a coaching staff to give them this success. They haven't been able to feel this kind of success. This group really hasn't felt it at all because they weren't playing two years ago when they got the win. Being able to give this to them and see the excitement is a special thing. Hopefully, at the end of the year I will look back and get to remember how special it is,” he said.
“Right now we've just got to keep pressing forward. We've got a wave of momentum, we just can't let it crack. We've got three really great opponents and we've got to make sure we show up to practice every single day so we can prepare to compete with these three teams.”
Mustangs wide receiver Daniel Denton (13) makes a catch in the first half against the Marion County Warriors Friday, in Jasper. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)