It’s been a long road for the Walker Valley Mustangs this football season, and tonight they have the opportunity to make a statement and make that road just a little bit longer.
Currently, sitting at 5-4 on the season, the Mustangs look to have a shot at the postseason regardless of the outcome of tonight’s home game against the Ooltewah Owls, but that doesn’t matter much to head coach Glen Ryan, who is looking for his team to make a statement win against a tough Owl squad.
“This is going to be a challenge for our players. We are still looking to get over that one team that everyone thinks we can’t beat. If we could do that, it would be a huge step forward for our program. A win would put us at 6-4 and there are a lot of people out there who didn’t think we would have a chance to finish there,” stated Ryan.
“There is a lot going on this game. If we win we are locked into the postseason. It looks like it’s a good shot we are going to make it in regardless of Friday night, but you don’t like to go limping in. You want to go into the playoffs on a high note, and beating Ooltewah would be a great note to go with and a great tribute to our kids.”
Ryan’s statement especially applies to the team’s 17 senior members, who have weathered some storms with Walker Valley football over their careers. The veteran leaders will be honored during the pregame senior night festivities.
Those who have stuck with the program through all four years had tallied only three wins through three season up until this year, going 1-9 in 2009, 2-8 in 2010 and winless last season.
It’s been a big turnaround this season, as the team not only has a chance to finish above .500, but give every single player a taste of the postseason.
“We have no one in that locker room who has ever been in the playoffs. We don’t have anyone who’s ever seen five wins,” Ryan related with a chuckle.
“There is some excitement, but we have been staying focused on Ooltewah, because we have a game still to play. I told them that as far as they need to be concerned, Friday night’s game is a playoff game, and it will be a measuring stick to see if we are ready for what’s to come.
And, it’s quite a measuring stick.
Ooltewah sits at 6-3 on the season and is coming off four straight wins, against East Ridge, Soddy-Daisy, Bradley Central and Rhea County.
“Ooltewah is a very athletic team. They have a running back that is a train. They have him listed at 235 pounds and then they have another one who isn’t much smaller behind him,” Ryan said.
“They are huge up front, and they have athletes that just run all over the place. No doubt about it, they are a good football team.”
The one weakness that the Owls have shown is a propensity for making costly mistakes, a hole that the Mustangs must take advantage of in order to tackle this big District 5-AAA opponent.
“Ooltewah makes mistakes, but so do we. That’s what we took out of the Rhea County game, consistency. We had nagging penalties hurt us. We had an easy touchdown called back because of a procedure call. We still scored on the drive, but it’s the little things that we still have to work on getting better at. To be that complete football team we can’t have letdowns like that,” Ryan explained.
With consistent fundamental play and capitalizing on any Owl miscues, the Mustangs could give Mustang nation a night to remember at “The Corral.” Ryan’s team starts the Owl hunt at 7:30 p.m.