Walker Valley wide receiver Griffin Broome runs behind his offensive line out of the Wildcat formation in the first half against the Trojans Friday, at Soddy-Daisy. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)
SODDY-DAISY — For a team that has struggled to find an identity all season, the Walker Valley Mustangs showed the Soddy-Daisy Trojans who they are Friday night. The end result was not what first-year head coach Drew Akins was looking for, but the 28-21 loss to the Region 4-5A champions showed him something he has been waiting 10 games to see.
“We're going to get great at something. I feel like we found our identity. We found it a little too late, but we found it. I'm really excited about that. I'm excited to build that for the future,” said Akins.
The immediate future for the Mustangs is a trip to Knoxville and a first-round playoff game against Region 3-5A runner-up Knox West Friday.
“We've still got the opportunity to go up and play one of the best teams in the state. We're excited for the opportunity to go to Knox West and be able to compete with them and see what a veteran program looks like. It is definitely a veteran program,” said the Mustangs' coach.
Walker Valley struck first with a clock eating 59-yard, 13-play opening drive that ended with a Tucker Pope to Noah Duprey 3-yard touchdown pass.
The Mustangs (4-6, 1-2 Region 4-5A) and Trojans (6-4, 3-0) traded TDs in the second quarter with Pope finding Duprey again for 29 yards and a second Walker Valley score. Soddy-Daisy knotted the score at 14-all with 2:31 left in the half.
The Mustangs took a 21-14 lead into halftime, set up by Barton Dixson's fumble recovery on a Trojan muffed punt at the Soddy 49-yard line. Pope guided the Herd to the Soddy 1/2-yard line where Griffin Broome took the snap and battled his way behind the left side of the Walker Valley offensive line, diving across the goal line at the clock wound down to zeros.
“We've talked all year about our mentality as a football team. We've talked all year about how when things go bad we seem to shy away from it. I could not be more proud of those guys tonight,” praised Akins. “When things went bad we just kept fighting. We kept plugging, we just kept coming back at them. In the end we had a chance with the ball in the end zone with a shot to tie the ballgame.”
The Mustangs picked up where they left off coming out of the break, moving from their own 25-yard line to the Soddy 34 before an interception ended the drive and led to a game-tying Trojans touchdown.
On its next possession, Walker Valley again moved the ball, this time to the Soddy 15, before a fumble and back-to-back penalties forced an eventual punt at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The 40-yard Charlie Swafford punt pinned the Trojans at their own 1-yard line. The Trojans answered with a steady dose of Hayden Maynor that led to the go-ahead touchdown midway through the quarter.
The Mustangs, unfazed by the length-of-the-field drive by the Trojans, went back to work moving from their own 31-yard line to the Soddy 15 where they faced a fourth-and-11. A last-gasp Pope pass to the back of the end zone with seven second left on the clock tipped off the fingertips of the intended receiver and the Trojans took over with 0:04 showing on the clock.
It's one of those things. Its definitely disappointing, it's definitely heartbreaking. But, I saw more that I am so proud of out of our team tonight than I've seen all year long. It was really fun seeing that out of our kids, seeing us keep fighting to the very end,” said Akins.
“This game is not only about this year. Have pride in everything you do and that pride will carry over into next year and the year after that. We're going to build a program here like no other program that's been built at Walker Valley. We're going to do that. Games like this and heartbreaks like this is what's going to lead to victories and successes later on.”
Walker Valley 7 14 0 0 — 21
Soddy-Daisy 0 14 7 7 — 28
WV — Noah Duprey 3 pass from Tyler Pope (Charlie Swafford kick), 3:09
SD — KeSean Eubanks 18 pass from Isaaac Barnes (Cooper Hamilton kick), 10:05
WV — Duprey 29 pass from Pope (Swafford kick) 6:50
SD — Jayden Maynor 9 run (Hamilton kick), 2:31
WV — Griffin Broome 1 run, (Swafford kick), 0:00
SD — Maynor 11 run (Hamilton kick), 5:40
SD — Maynor 1 run (Hamilton kick), 4:33
First downs WV 21 SD 16
Rushes-Yards WV 43-167 SD 27-179
Passing WV 167 SD 136
Comp-Att-Int WV 16-23-1 SD 18-22-0
Punts-Avg.WV 2-40 SD 1-37
Fumbles-Lost WV 2-0 SD 1-1
Penalties-Yards WV 8-72 SD 2-25
Kole Hall 25-107
Daniel Denton 1-8
Will Ackerman 5-11
Landen Reece 2-27
Jalan Render 1-15
Walker Valley 4-6, 1-2
Soddy-Daisy 6-4, 3-0
Mustangs Wide Receiver Noah Duprey dives for a pass from quarterback Tyler Pope in the first half against Soddy-Daisy Friday, in Soddy-Daisy. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)