Going into Monday’s TSSAA Sectional playoffs, coach Dean Anderson challenged his Walker Valley bowling team to “do something you’ve never done, and you’ll get something you’ve never got.”
They did and earned the school’s first trip to a TSSAA Boys State Bowling Tournament.
“We’ve said all year that ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,’” explained Anderson after the 17-10 victory over Smyrna at the Leisure Time Bowling Center. “Today I told them to do something different. They responded and now we’re going where the boys have never gone before.
“The girls won the state championship in the program’s first year (2005) and made another state tournament, but the boys had never even won the region until last week,” the coach related.
Walker Valley has had several bowlers qualify for the individual state bowling tournament over the years, including four this season, but none have won a state crown. Lady Mustang juniors Chelsey McCormack (175 average) and Amber Houchin (153), along with sophomore Alexis Rutledge (163) and Mustang senior Brendon Baker (183) have all qualified for this year’s state individual tournament, to be held all day Thursday and Friday morning at the Smyrna Bowling Center.
The Mustangs will carry a 14-4 record into the boys’ team event Friday afternoon to battle with other sectional winners from Greeneville (20-5), Seymour (13-1), Bartlett (20-8), Collierville, Lebanon, Upperman and Columbia, which defeated Region 3 runner-up Soddy-Daisy 23-4 Monday. The state champion will be crowned on Saturday.
Walker Valley got off to a strong start in Monday’s sectional, winning 4-of-6 head-to-head games plus claiming the extra two team points for having the higher pin fall total in each of the first two rounds.
Despite holding a 12-4 advantage heading into the final round, the Mustangs were up just 137 in the overall pin fall total, giving the boys from Middle Tennessee a glimmer of hope.
The Bulldogs made a hard charge in the finale, but Walker Valley was able to hold them at bay with a pair of heads-up wins to secure the match, but in the end the final pin fall tally was just 35 (3,236-3,201).
“Our boys rolled tremendous today,” coach Anderson praised. “We got off to a strong start and then held them off at the end.”
“We came in hot and had great balance today,” declared Brenden Baker, the team’s lone senior. “This is a great way for me to finish (his high school career).”
Firing a 596, including 231 and 209 games, with a trio of heads-up victories, Baker led five Mustangs who posted 500-series, including his younger brother Jacob, the team’s only junior, who rolled a 528 with a 190 high game and a pair of wins.
Freshmen Briton Helton (590), Caleb Zanoska (553) and Nathan Kirby (508) helped out the Mustang cause. Helton had a pair of 200-plus games at 220 and 202, both victories, while Zanoska also won a pair of heads-up battles.
“The Baker brothers are our only upperclassmen, so hopefully this is just the start of what we hope is a strong run for several years,” coach Anderson stated. “We had emphasized this season that we wanted to peak in the tournaments and so far we have with some of our best matches.”
With all four of their losses coming during the regular season, the Mustangs rolled unscathed through the postseason. In the District 5 Tournament, Walker Valley got some revenge on McMinn County for a pair of defeats with its best score of the season, rolling a 3,569 to down the Cherokees 22-5 in the championship match.
The Mustangs went on to sweep the region matches, including 21-6 win over Soddy-Daisy with a 3,336 pin fall tally in the battle for the title.