Things started well enough for the Mustangs. During the opening drive they marched the ball downfield in a 15-play drive that covered 66 yards, saw four first downs and finished with kicker Aidan Flock punching one through the goal posts from 25 yards out, to put the squad up 3-0 with 5:41 left in the first quarter.
“Early on we had the good first drive and got something accomplished, taking the ball down the field and walking away with the lead,” said Mustang head coach Ted Lockerby.
Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there, as the Cherokees dominated on both sides of the ball for the majority of the game.
During McMinn’s first possession the Cherokees answered the Walker Valley field goal with a touchdown after quarterback Nathan Simbeck launched a missile down the sideline and found Cedrick Nevins for the 61-yard hook-up.
“Defensively we played well. We just gave up some big plays that really hurt us,” stated Lockerby.
A positive for Walker Valley came via the leg of their star punter Caleb Houston, who had the McMinn sideline yelling “Back up! Back up!” all night.
Two of Houston’s kicks dwarfed the 40-yard mark, with one coming to a stop an astounding 62 yards later.
“We punted the ball really well. Caleb changed the field position for us. We saw some good things from the defense in regards to getting to the ball and gang tackling, and we had some strong play from Bryson Locke at fullback tonight. He had some good, strong runs for us,” Lockerby explained.
The Cherokees scored again halfway through the second quarter when Simbeck once again aired out a long ball and found Clay Bennett for a 67-yard strike.
McMinn tacked on a field goal with seconds to play in the half to go into the break with a 17-3 lead over the Mustangs.
To start the second half, the Walker Valley defense made an impressive opening stop against the Cherokees. However, the Mustang offense was unable to find its legs before being forced to punt again.
In what was quickly becoming a familiar story, Simbeck once again launched a moon shot, during McMinn’s next possession, and found Brandon Davis for a 50 yard heave-and-haul score.
During the Cherokees’ next possession, the Mustang defense finally made a stand sacking Simbeck and then denying a McMinn fourth-down conversation attempt.
Unfortunately, the Mustang offense was unable to capitalize.
After another defensive stop the Walker Valley offense found a footing and marched 55 yards downfield before senior Hunter Keefer punched it across the goal line from a yard out. The play brought the Mustangs within two touchdowns with 4:15 to play.
But it was too little, too late for the Mustangs and as the Cherokees punched yet another score through with 1:52 left to play the stands had already started to clear.
Walker Valley was left on the losing side of a mostly one-sided battle, forcing the team to seek its first win against Soddy-Daisy on the road next week.
“We are still working hard. These guys are hungry and want that first win. We aren’t going to give up on them, and they aren’t going to give up on themselves,” Lockerby expressed.