CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- East Ridge and Walker Valley both showed signed of first-game jitters and had players cramp up in the second half because of the heat and humidity.
Visiting East Ridge overcame the early nerves before the Mustangs and built a three-score lead before cruising to an 39-17 win over Walker Valley on Friday.
"They came down here and outplayed us," Walker Valley coach Ted Lockerby said. "They were more physical than we were. They got to the football better than we did. They executed better than we did."
Running back Shaquille Holland scored two touchdowns in the first half and helped the Pioneers rack up 214 rushing yards. Aaron Sternes led with 87 rushing yards.
"I was kind of nervous at first," said Demetrius Bumpass, one of two quarterbacks East Ridge used regularly. "After that first hit, it was game on."
East Ridge muffed and lost the opening kickoff. Walker Valley gave the ball right back when Holland intercepted Garrett Wallace on a shot to the end zone and returned it 61 yards. The Pioneers returned the favor three plays later when Cameron Davis recovered a fumble.
The teams settled down -- a bit -- and Walker Valley opened the scoring with a 1-yard dive by Kelvin Wells Jr. midway through the first quarter.
Holland scored from 3 yards out on a dive up the middle, but East Ridge couldn't convert the extra point. The Mustangs retook the lead, 10-6, on a 38-yard field goal.
Pioneers receiver Avious Griffin looked to be in midseason form on a 53-yard touchdown catch. He shook off two would-be tacklers and sprinted away from a trio of pursuers. He finished with four grabs for 81 yards.
Holland tacked on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 17 seconds to go in the first half. Safety Carlton Hunter crushed Holland and popped off his helmet, but only after Holland crossed the goal line for a 19-10 lead.
The teams combined for 15 flags in the first half with 11 of them being a procedural penalties.
East Ridge continued motoring along without much rust in the second half. It scored three touchdowns after the break while limiting the Mustangs to one score that pulled them within 32-17.
Bumpass connected with Trey Toran for a 13-yard score, Emanuel Harris returned an interception and Sternes broke through for a 48-yard touchdown with 4:46 to go.
"That was game over," Sternes said.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...