Last week, the Walker Valley Mustangs nearly made history for the second time this season when they came within six points of beating “big brother” Bradley Central for what would have been the first time in the school’s existence.
Despite a strong showing, the Mustangs came up just a little short (27-21) and fell to 1-4 in their last five starts after getting off to the best start (3-0) in school history.
But, what is past is past to head coach Glen Ryan and his squad, and now the team looks ahead to the next “most important” game of their season this week against the 1-7 Rhea County Golden Eagles.
“During the Bradley game we missed a couple of huge opportunities and they didn’t. The big thing for us to take out of that game is we need to get past just playing close and start winning those games,” explained Ryan.
“We can’t do that Friday night. Rhea is such a dangerous football team. They are so well coached, hard-nosed and very physical. They have gone through a gauntlet this season, so their record doesn’t really reflect their talent.”
Six of the Golden Eagles’ seven losses have come at the hands of teams over .500. Powell, McMinn County, Bearden and Fulton all only have a single loss on the season, presenting some daunting competition to be sure.
“They’ve had a very tough schedule this year. I put them a little bit like Cleveland earlier in the season, when people thought Cleveland was down but weren’t looking at who they played. We all know now that Cleveland isn’t anywhere close to down,” Ryan said with a chuckle.
“No one over here is taking Rhea lightly. They have some dangerous weapons and playmakers. No. 6 (Demitrius Patterson, WR) and No. 10 (Desmond Sharp, RB) both do a really good job.”
Rhea could provide a good test for the Mustangs, especially on the road at Rhea County High School and their new turf field.
Ryan isn’t so much worried about playing on the artificial surface, his JV crew won there earlier in the season. What he is worried about is his squad stepping up to a challenge and finishing the season strong, ending it on a high note ... potentially a very high note.
Despite the recent string of losses, Walker Valley still sits at 4-4 on the season, and a win Friday night would give the ’Stangs a shot at making the postseason, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by them since 2008. It would also be the first time since joining District 5-AAA.
It would be a far cry from Walker Valley football of the recent past and could work wonders at instilling more Mustang pride on the north side of the county. Already, the surrounding community has seemingly rallied around a team that is building around work ethic and integrity.
“If we could get into the playoffs it would be a huge shot in the arm for this program. That’s the goal of every football team at the start of the season. If you can get to the playoffs, everything is brand new. If we could give that experience to our seniors it would be a great tribute to their hard work and perseverance,” Ryan expressed.
Walker Valley’s road to the postseason has to run through Rhea County first, though, and Friday night at 7:30 the team will make a statement about where it want to end up in three weeks’ time.