First-year head coach Glen Ryan said this was his team’s year and it was time to see if his players agreed with him.
The last time the teams met a year ago, the final score was 36-20 in Hixson’s favor.
With that in mind, the teams lined up. The whistle blew. The game began with the sound of bodies pounding into each other.
Within 47 seconds Justin Ware gave the Mustangs their first of a half dozen touchdowns with 72-yard dash in a 44-12 victory for just the second 2-0 start to a football season in school history.
Ware himself scored three more before the final buzzer sounded on runs of 15, 6 and 31 yards.
Any observer around for Walker Valley’s games in the three preceding seasons could see there was a new breed of Mustangs on the field.
After Ware’s initial score, the senior thoroughbred stretched the Herd’s lead with a 15-yard scoring jaunt a little over six minutes later.
Not willing to surrender so quickly, Hixson answered with an 80-yard scoring strike to the speedy Allante Nocene on the second play after the ensuing kickoff.
On the two-point conversion try, the ball came loose and the Mustangs pounced on it.
The offensive line continued to block well, while Mustang quarterback Garrett Wallace maneuvered the team downfield as the final minutes of the opening period ticked away.
As the last ticks escaped the clock, Wallace found Dustin Swafford open for a 27-yard touchdown pass and a 21-6 advantage.
The Mustang defense set up the next score with a brilliant sack by Garrett Moore, pushing the Wildcats back 18 yards.
On the following play, Hunter Newport took the ball for Walker Valley with an interception, setting up Ware’s third touchdown of the night with 2:15 remaining in the first half.
Just 61 seconds later, Hixson answered with its second score of the night when QB Gil Brown hit Kendrick Bradley with a seven-yard pass.
A follow-up quarterback sneak was unsuccessful for a two-point conversion leaving 28-12 blazing on the scoreboard during the intermission.
Walker Valley continued to dominate in the second half, thwarting the first Wildcat effort and forcing them to turn the ball over on downs at the ’Stang 20-yard line.
Ware started and ended a short five-play drive, covering 22 yards on the opening play and juking past the Hixson defenders for the remaing 31 and the score.
Perfect in six PAT attempts, Brad Hoffner brought the score to 35-12 with at the 6:38 mark of the third quarter.
After the Walker Valley defense force a quick three-and-out, Reggie Mills got into the scoring act for the Navy-and-Gold.
Taking over on their own 46, Mills took the ball up for a stunning 49-yard gallop, breaking through several tackles before being slung out of bounds at the 5-yard line.
The junior ball carrier then did the honors from five yards out, breaking the plane of the goal with defenders hanging on him, less than a minute after Ware’s final score.
With a win in the bag, Ryan began placing fresh faces on the field. Both Josh Jones and Cory Cook took a turn as quarterback. Avery Jones and Holt Spencer took the ball up hard in the fourth quarter. With minutes remaining in the last quarter, Spencer had two nice runs leading to a total of 19 yards.
Walker Valley got their final two points of the game when a muffed Wildcat punt attempt was kicked out the back of the end zone. A safety was called and the score became 44-12. The game ended with the ball, crowd, and score in Walker Valley’s favor.
“We did a lot of things well,” said Ryan. “We took care of the football. Offensively, we put points on the board and we didn’t fumble points away like we did last week.”
“Our defense came out and had another stellar game,” he continued. “We just kept stepping it up. Both of our teams did a good job all the way around.”
“These guys right here, they have really been willing to come work hard everyday. They came out and we’ve improved a lot from last week to this week,” Ryan said.
“We can always improve. We have got to get better up front. They broke a couple of big plays on us. There is always something you can do to get better. The day you stop working to get better is the day you’re in trouble.”
Walker Valley has a bye week before playing Red Bank on Sept. 7 in their home opener at “The Corral.”
“This is their (the players) year. This is what we have worked hard for since way back in December is to come out and take it one game at a time,” coach Ryan said. “We can’t overlook anybody. This one is over, we will watch the film tomorrow (Saturday) morning and then we will come out and start getting ready for Red Bank.
High School Football
Team District Overall
Walker Valley 0-0 2-0
McMinn County 0-0 2-0
Ooltewah 0-0 2-0
Bradley Central 0-0 1-1
Rhea County 0-0 1-1
Soddy-Daisy 0-0 1-1
Cleveland 0-0 0-2
Friday, Aug. 24
Walker Valley 44, Hixson 12
Baylor 34, Bradley Central 13
Knox Catholic 41, Cleveland 26
McMinn County 20, McCallie 14
Soddy-Daisy 32, Red Bank 27
Ooltewah 31, East Hamilton 28
Rhea County 33, Brainerd 6
Thursday, Aug. 30
Rhea County at McMinn County, 7:30
Friday, Aug. 31
Bradley Central at Soddy-Daisy, 7:30
Cleveland at Ooltewah, 7:30
Walker Valley has a bye
Team District Overall
Sequoyah 0-0 2-0
Sweetwater 0-0 2-0
Polk County 0-0 1-1
McMinn Central 0-0 1-1
Meigs County 0-0 0-2
Friday, Aug. 17
Polk Co. 20, Chatt. Central 14
McMinn Cent. 41, Notre Dame 20
Sequatchie Co. 35, Meigs Co.14
Sequoyah 58, Tellico Plains 26
Sweetwater 21, Stone Memorial 8
Thursday, Aug. 30
Polk County at McMinn Central, 7:30
Friday, Aug. 31
Grace Baptist at Sweetwater, 7:30
Sequoyah at Meigs County, 7:30