Walker Valley scored the most impressive of its two soccer wins this season on Monday, dominating the Red Bank Lions in the latter portion of the second half for a 6-2 decision.
The Mustangs displayed some late-season intensity as they built a 2-0 lead in the first half behind the play of Brandon Justice and Zach Carroll. Red Bank’s Lions rallied at the start of the second half to tie the score, but Walker Valley regained control and added four goals over the final 30 minutes of the match for the victory.
Justice turned in a hat trick (three goals) for the match, the Mustangs’ first three-goal performance of the season.
Red Bank coach Wade Vento declined comment after the match, visibly disappointed with the loss.
Walker Valley coach Tom Bayliss was delighted with the win and his Mustangs’ newfound intensity. “It’s fun to win,” he told his team after the victory, “but with everything else that has gone on this past week (with the storms and tragedies) we realize that soccer is not that important.”
“We’ve had a ton of time off,” Bayliss said after talking with his team. “We haven’t touched a soccer ball in more than a week.”
The layoff was apparently good for the Mustangs as they broke in front in the first half and got strong performances from a number of players.
Goalkeepers Brad Hoffner and Sammy Almazan kept the Lions off the scoreboard, except for a short two-minute span at the start of the second half. Red Bank wasted no time after intermission to put two goals in the net to tie the score at 2-2.
The two goals not only surprised the Mustangs, they also energized the home team for the remainder of the match; Justice added two late goals after having scored the first goal of the match.
Corey Kraft and Andrew Sherlin also drew praise from coach Bayliss for their consistent play.
The Mustangs will return to action at 5 p.m. Thursday at McMinn Central, and will then advance to District 5-AAA tournament play. The district soccer meeting is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday at O’Charley’s Restaurant in Cleveland.
Walker Valley has had its soccer problems this year. The Mustangs’ only success was a match win early in the year and later on getting a second-half comeback and a tie with Rhea County. Monday’s play was the best of the year by the Mustangs.
Near the 10-minute mark of the first half, Justice put the Mustangs in front on an assist from Carroll and a score past Red Bank goalie Nick Ross.
Approximately seven minutes later Carroll broke away from a Red Bank defender and slipped a shot into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Justice had a couple more opportunities in the first half that were blocked away by the Lions’ defense. The Mustangs also had a chance for three shots late in the half, but all were knocked aside.
Red Bank also had some opportunities, but could not score. R.J. Bridges got loose on a breakaway late, but Sherlin kicked the ball out of bounds. Drew Moreland had a good shot late in the half that was blocked to the side by Hoffner, the Walker Valley goalkeeper.
The Mustangs did not come out for the second half with the same intensity they had in the opening 40 minutes. It took only two minutes for Red Bank to tie the score. Bridges got the Lions’ first goal from the side, and Red Bank captain Darian Lindsay followed seconds later with a second goal on an assist from Bridges.
The Mustangs then settled down over the next seven or eight minutes and regained the lead about 10 minutes into the second half. Brayton Bird put the Mustangs back on top with a nifty header on a corner kick. About five minutes later Sherlin gave the home team a two-goal advantage with a score on another corner kick.
Justice then punctuated his outstanding performance with the final two goals of the match. He got his second goal (Walker Valley’s fifth) on a turn-around move and backwards kick into the net. The final score came with about four minutes left as he hit from the side for the 6-2 winning margin.
The Mustangs had additional opportunities to score over the final minutes against the demoralized Lions, but could not connect.