WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS
Coach: Ted Lockerby (12-29 here and career)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/7/2
Remember these names: Kelvin Wells, Jr. (Jr, 5-11, 174) will carry the bulk of the load offensively after a 1,499-yard, 18-touchdown season a year ago, but he’ll receive help from wingback Gabe Cartwright (Jr., 6-1, 170). Lineman Alexander Hooper (Jr., 6-2, 280) will be important on both sides of the line, while Hunter Keefer (Sr., 6-1, 185) will be the lead linebacker as well as playing fullback on offense.
Will be a memorable year if: Walker Valley can shake its “Vanderbilt” stigma. The Mustangs have been a feast-or-famine program with six wins and a playoff berth in 2008 but three victories since. They will have to win the winnable games on their schedule, as well as perform well and hope for success against teams that are perceived to be better talent-wise. If they do that, there is potential for some success in 2011.
Aug. 19 East Ridge
Aug. 26 Hixson
Sept. 9 at Red Bank
Sept. 16 Cleveland*
Sept. 23 at Polk County
Sept. 30 McMinn County*
Oct. 7 at Soddy-Daisy*
Oct. 14 at Bradley Central*
Oct. 21 Rhea County*
Oct. 28 at Ooltewah*
* District 5-AAA game
Walker Valley junior offensive lineman Alexander Hooper knew classmate Kelvin Wells Jr. had the potential to be a standout tailback in high school. Wells surprised him anyway.
Wells topped 200 yards on four occasions as a sophomore, scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,499 yards despite not cracking the starting lineup until the third game of the season.
“I really didn’t expect it to happen so soon,” the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Hooper said. “I thought that maybe later in his career he could be good, but I didn’t expect the immediate impact he’d have. He’s in line for good junior and senior years.”
Wells earned his totals against defenses that piled nine and sometimes 10 players in the box and dared the Mustangs to pass. Walker Valley coach Ted Lockerby hopes an improved passing attack and two quarterbacks with a year’s experience will take some of the load off Wells and help the team improve on last season’s 2-8 finish.
“That’s one area we’ve emphasized,” Lockerby said. “Last year when we were forced to pass, we weren’t efficient, and we don’t want to just pass game.”
Lockerby said the emergence of junior wingback Gabe Cartwright, who missed most of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury, will help.
All the help will be beneficial to Wells, but he wouldn’t complain regardless. When asked about his greatest memory of the 2010 season, he cited a defensive stand the Mustangs made against county rival Bradley Central.
“We stuffed [fullback] Dewaun Massengill on a fourth-and-1,” Wells said. “I was on the sidelines, but that play set the tone for the game.”
He won’t have too many chances to rest this year. He’s expected to play defensive back along with his offensive responsibilities, but the added load doesn’t seem to bother him. Nothing seems to.
“I just have to approach the season with more intensity, and I’ve had to work on some other areas of my game,” the 5-foot-11, 174-pound Wells said. “I have to pass-block better, run-block better.
“I just want to win. I don’t care what it takes or what I have to do.”
Walker Valley coaches think that even with the improved passing attack and fellow backs Cartwright and Hunter Keefer, Wells is primed for a possible 2,000-yard season.
“If I had to set a goal for this year, I would say 2,200 yards, but that’s only if the team needs it,” he said. “We have to go out and win and be disciplined like I know we can be.”
With only 30 wins in their 10-year history, the Mustangs can say they’ve enjoyed two wins over rival Cleveland — one more than county rival Bradley Central in that span. Both times Walker Valley defeated Cleveland, the Raiders replaced their head coach following the season.
Walker Valley enjoyed the 2008 win especially because it forced Cleveland — a heavy favorite coming in — to travel to state power Maryville for the first round of the playoffs. The game was sealed when Cleveland quarterback Tucker Tipton was stopped short on a two-point-conversion try in overtime.
“We’d already clinched a playoff berth, but we were able to put a wrinkle in the playoff scenario,” Lockerby said. “It was the highlight of the program since I’ve been here.”
The Mustangs have made five playoff appearances, although only once since moving up in classification in 2005. They’re still looking for their first playoff win.