“We really wanted this game to be the one we put four quarters together,” declared Ryan. “I hate this for our seniors because we have some great leadership on this field.”
Looking ahead to a season finale against district front-runner Ooltewah (7-2, 4-1), McMinn County (4-5, 3-2) was able pitch a 32-0 shutout to Walker Valley (3-6, 0-5) as the Mustangs look to finish the season strong at Soddy-Daisy (3-6, 0-5).
The opening frame saw both defenses really try to assert their dominance. The only play that had any major positive results was an 18-yard strike from the Cherokee’s junior quarterback Corbin Powers to senior wide out Dre Hall. Though the Tribe seemed to be on the move at that point, the Mustangs defense again stepped and thwarted the drive.
Moving in to the second quarter, Walker Valley got things going at the 10-minute mark with a beautiful half back pass from senior receiver Colton Morrow to fellow senior Tanner Dillard for a big 36-yard gain. Two plays later, the Mustangs fumbled the ball on the McMinn County five yard line ending, what would prove to be, the closest chance they would have at a touchdown.
After back-and-forth stalled drives, Cherokee senior defensive back Raekwon Westin picked a pass out of the air on his own 29 yard line for the first of two Tribe interceptions with 7:27 remaining until the half.
McMinn County took full advantage of the turnover when Powers hooked up with senior receiver Clay Bennett 25 yards later on the first of his four touchdown catches. Following a failed two-point conversion, the Tribe had a 6-0 lead with just 1:16 left in the half.
The Mustangs moved quickly covering 28 yards on a pass from junior QB Cory Cook to freshman receiver Bryce Nunnelly down to the opponent’s 19 yard line. Following a short run and a timely penalty, it seemed like Walker Valley was in a position to cut the lead in half with a chip shot field goal, but apparently, the football powers-to-be had other plans as the 18-yard attempt sailed wide left to close out the half.
When the third quarter kicked off, it was the Cherokee’s who came out ready to run. After a Walker Valley five-and-out, McMinn County moved the ball with ease culminating with a 17-yard touchdown strike from Powers to Bennett. Powers was able to locate Hall in the corner of the end zone on the two-point conversion to push their lead to 14-0 with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
Walker Valley’s first play off the touchdown was a second costly turnover as the center to quarterback exchange was dropped and the Tribe pounced all over it. Again the Cherokee’s drove the field where Powers and Bennett hooked up for a third time. This one was from eight yards out to push the score to 20-0 following a missed extra point.
Thirteen seconds in to the final frame, McMinn’s aerial threat of Powers and Bennett hooked up for a fourth touchdown on the night and pushed the lead out 26-0 after another missed extra point.
The Cherokee’s defense again stepped up with 8:30 left in the contest when senior defensive back Matt Derrickson picked off a pass to put an exclamation point on the contest.
McMinn County found pay dirt one last time with just 1:24 left in the game. Freshman backup quarterback Xavier Abernathy scrambled for two yards and hung the final points on the board — 32-0.
The Tribe offense amassed 356 total yards, including a 14-of-29 passing night from Powers for 155 yards and four touchdowns. The Cherokee signal caller also carried the ball 10 times for 43 yards.
Bennett led the aerial attack with four of his seven catches going for scores and covering 83 total yards for the game.
McMinn’s ground game went for 201 yards with sophomore D.J. Kimpson toting the rock 27 times for 122 yards.
For Walker Valley, Morrow and Cook did the majority of the damage in the Stallions’ 244 total yards. Cook covered 91 yards through the air on hard earned 8-for-29 passing performance. Morrow joined the action going 1-1 for 36 yards and added 35 yards receiving and 14 rushing. After his combined 62 return yards, Morrow walked off his home field for the last time with 147 total yards on the game.
Nunnelly gained 46 yards on just three touches, while Dillard pulled in four passes for 57 yards. Senior Chandler Hunt led the rushing attack with 49 yards on 11 carries.
Junior Hunter Newport topped the Mustang defensive effort with 15 total hits, including four solo tackles. Freshman Alex King was in on a dozen tackles, also with four by himself, including one behind the line of scrimmage. Dillard and Nunnelly had 11 total tackles apiece, with Dillard getting a sack and a pair of tackles for loss, while Nunnelly knocked away four Tribe pass attempts.
Juniors Holt Spencer, Brett Geren and Reed Jacobs, along with sophomore Jaylon Martin, each had 10 total hits, with the 11th grade trio having a tackle for loss apiece. Senior Cody McCracken also stopped a ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage in his nine tackles. Morrow only had three total hits, but one was for loss. He also knocked away a trio of McMinn pass attempts.
McMinn County 0 6 14 12 — 32
Walker Valley 0 0 0 0 — 0
MC — Clay Bennett 25-yd pass from Corbin Powers (conversion failed), 1:16
MC — Bennett 18-yd pass from Powers (Dre Hall from Powers pass), 7:22
MC — Bennett 8-yd pass from Powers (kick failed), 5:39
MC — Bennett 16-yd pass from Powers (kick failed), 11:47
MC — Xavier Abernathy 2-yd run (kick failed), 1:24
First downs 22 10
Rushes-yards 42-201 37-117
Passing yards 155 127
Total yards 356 244
Comp-Att-Int 14-29-0 9-28-2
Punts -Ave. 5-39.8 4-36.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties 8-53 10-65
Rushing: DJ Kimpson 27-122, Corbin Powers 10-43, Xavier Abernathy 4-32 TD, Dre Sanders 1-4 (MC); Chandler Hunt 11-49, Bryce Nunnelly 2-17, Tanner Dillard 2-14, Coleton Morrow 2-14, Alex King 9-12, Josh Jones 2-9, Cory Cook 6-3, Avery Jones 2- -1 (WV).
Passing: Corbin Powers 14-29-0 155 4 TDs (MC); Cory Cook 8-27-2 91, Colton Morrow 1-1-0 36 (BWV.
Receiving: Clay Bennett 7-83 4 TDs, Dre Sanders 4-38, Dre Hall 2-26, Matt Derrickson 1-10 (MC); Tanner Dillard 4-57, Colton Morrow 2-35, Bryce Nunnelly 1-29, Cooper Melton 1-9, Chandler Hunt 1- -3 (WV).
Records: McMinn County 4-5, 3-2 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 3-6, 0-5 District 5-AAA.