Meanwhile, the visiting offense tallied three punts on its first three drives. It seemed only appropriate when the Mustang band fired up “What is Love?” and started chanting, “Don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me no more.”
Luckily, the hurting did eventually end. After giving up 39 first half points (19 of which came in just nine minutes of play) Walker Valley was able to stem the bleeding, holding the Cherokees scoreless in the second half while tacking on a touchdown of their own, ending the game with a 39-8 decision.
“I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I wish we could have given them a little better game. We are still a growing work in progress. McMinn is a good football team. But, if we want to get over the hump and be the type of football team we want to be, we have to compete with teams like that,” Mustang head coach Glen Ryan said of the defending District 5-AAA champs.
The much-hyped confrontation between current McMinn running back Kelvin Wells Jr. and his former Walker Valley team easily tipped in Wells’ favor. He touched the ball just three times, but gained 73 yards and a score on that trifecta of carries.
Unfortunately, for the Mustangs, the district-leading Cherokees (5-1, 3-0) had another talented back by the name of Dre Sanders who notched 118 yards and three touchdowns on an astonishing four carries.
Sanders’ rushing total came just two yards shy of matching Walker Valley’s top two rushers combined with the team’s entire passing attack on the night.
The Mustangs did have some chances out on the field. Down six touchdowns with seconds left in the first half, Walker Valley found itself in the red zone with a chance to go into the break with at least a little momentum.
But, all hopes of that scenario quickly evaporated when the Cherokees picked off a pass headed for the end zone, sending the “Herd” into the half with a little extra salt in the wound.
McMinn’s ground game wasn’t the only thing running that Walker Valley had to worry about in the second half. Content with their lead, the Cherokees played ground-and-pound and let the mercy rule evaporate minutes off the clock.
Walker Valley’s first possession of the second half came with just minutes left in the third quarter. But, the Mustangs made it count.
In a tactical sortie that lasted 16 plays, almost as many as their first three drives combined (17), Walker Valley combined for four first downs and 68 yards.
Senior quarterback Garrett Wallace found some redemption when he completed a scoring strike to Gabe Cartwright to end the shutout threat with 7:18 left to play.
Justin Ware was able to pound in the 2-point conversion to give the Mustangs eight points, but it was too little, too late.
One last silver lining appeared for the Navy-and-Gold. During the ensuing McMinn County possession, coach Ryan called a timeout with minutes left to play and his team down four scores.
“I told the guys that I don’t want them to score again. I didn’t even want them getting a first down. I told them we didn’t put them out here just to finish out the game. We put you in here to stop them and get the ball back so we can go down fighting,” expressed Ryan.
His defense rallied and responded with a forced fumble, keeping the Cherokees out of the end zone and bringing a close to a third straight loss.
“Every day we have to take something from the game, win, lose or draw, and learn from it. Some of these lessons are really tough. I hate it for the kids, but if it makes us a better football team then it will be worth it down the road,” explained Ryan.
Now 3-3 on the season, the Mustangs will look to get back in the win column this Friday when it hosts a hungry Soddy-Daisy (2-4, 1-2) team, which is looking to turn its season around after a lopsided 48-0 loss to Ooltewah Friday night and a 28-21 defeat at the hand of a then-winless Chattanooga Central team the week before.
Walker Valley 0 0 0 8 — 8
McMinn County 19 20 0 0— 39
MC — Dre Sanders 30-yd. run (kick failed), 9:26
MC — Kelvin Wells 67-yd. run (Bubba Cooper kick), 6:04
MC — Sanders 58-yd. run (kick failed), 2:57
MC — Corbin Powers 24-yd. run (kick failed), 7:30
MC — Sanders 8-yd. run (Garrett Grizzle kick), 5:49
MC — Blake Powers 64-yd. pass from Powers (Grizzle kick), 3:12
WV — Gabe Cartwright 5-yd. pass from Garrett Wallace (Justin Ware conversion), 7:18
Team stats WV MC
First downs 9 8
Rushes-yards 40-133 29-263
Passing yards 25 94
Total yards 158 357
Comp-Att-Int 2-14-1 5-7-0
Punts -Ave. 5-29.6 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 4-1
Penalties 4-30 8-46
Rushing: Justin Ware 13-75, Wallace 10-28, Chaz Fulford 7-21, Jalyn Brown 2-4, Gabe Cartwright 2-2, Reggie Mills 5-2, Chandler Hunt 1-1 (WV); Sanders 4-118 3 TD, Wells 3-73 TD, Caleb Selvage 10-36, C. Powers 5-21 TD, DJ Kimpson 6-20 (MC).
Passing: Wallace 2-14-25 TD (WV); C. Powers 5-7-94 TD (MC).
Receiving: Hunt 1-20, Carwright 1-5 TD (WV); B. Powers 3-74 TD, Clay Bennett 2-20 (MC).
Records: Walker Valley 3-3, 0-2 District 5-AAA; McMinn County 5-1, 3-0 District 5-AAA.