In Week 0, Walker Valley was able to battle back and gallop off with a 35-28 win over a fast East Ridge team.
“It was a good win, but was a little sloppy with the first game jitters and all that stuff,” Mustang head coach Glen Ryan commented. “Our kids bounced back and didn’t roll over after we got down, so that was a step in the right direction. We came back and ended up playing pretty decent the rest of the way through.”
Trailing 14-0, the 2014 Mustangs were able to do something that the 2013 team struggled with all season, which was finding that defining, turnaround moment in the game.
Last Friday, that moment came from a 71-yard pass from Josh Jones to Cooper Melton.
“They went up two touchdowns and then our defense started holding and giving our offense the opportunities to get back in the game,” Ryan explained. “Finally, we broke the big play with that pass to Cooper, which he brought in for a long touchdown run. That jump-started everything and we got going and tied it up, then sort of seesawed with them.”
Confident in their abilities to hang with the “fast kids,” Walker Valley now faces a test of strength, as they play a big, strong Sequoyah team.
“I think we gained a bit of confidence — that was a good East Ridge team that we played. The kids saw a lot of speed, so that let them know that they can play with the speed and now we are going to find out if we can play with the power part,” Coach Ryan stated.
The Mustangs travel north to take on a Sequoyah team which rolled over its county rival Tellico Plains 43-27 in the season opener.
While the score tells the overall story, some of the other numbers coming out of Monroe County last Friday are even more telling.
The Chiefs racked up 390 rushing yards in 42 attempts, while holding Tellico to 128 yards in 27 carries.
In the first half alone, sophomore running back Kayne Roberts racked up three touchdowns and a total of 130 yards in just seven runs.
Sequoyah once again has the size available to run a Power-I with a ‘jumbo’ offense, which Coach Ryan fully expects to see his defense go up against Friday night.
“I don’t expect Sequoyah to be any different. From what we’ve seen on film, they are very similar to what they were last year. They’re big up front and they’ve got some big, strong running backs,” the Mustang coach explained. “They are a big, physical football team and like to play smash-mouth football. That has always been really hard for us to defend and play against. We’ve got to go out and do a good job of stopping their running game. If we can stop their run game or at least slow it down, then we have a chance.”
Last year, Walker Valley was just able to outlast Sequoyah for a 24-21 win.
Where the Mustangs seem to have a distinct advantage this go-around over the Chiefs is in the passing game.
In its game last week, Sequoyah was only able to complete 2-of-8 passes for a total of 51 yards.
Walker Valley racked up 250 yards passing, with Jones completing 12-of-17 passes.
Three of the Mustangs’ touchdowns against East Ridge were from their aerial attack, which included the long TD pass to Melton, a 23-yard pass to Bryce Nunnelly and a 38-yarder to Zach Eslinger.
According to Coach Ryan, playing East Ridge and Sequoyah back-to-back should prove beneficial as his team prepares for a District 5-AAA battle with East Hamilton on Sept. 5.
“We feel that these two games really complement each other — East Ridge with their speed, Sequoyah with their size and strength. If we can handle those two sides of the coin, then that helps prepare us for going into our district games, where we will see size and speed,” Ryan explained.
With his team still in good shape and virtually untouched by the injury bug that bit hard last year, the Walker Valley coach has plenty to look forward to Friday.
“We’re looking forward to this (game) and our kids have had a good week. They are on a positive [streak] and are working to fix their mistakes. We’re going to go in Friday night, let it all out and see what happens.”
Friday’s game at Sequoyah will kick off at 7:30 p.m.