Walker Valley made great progress this football season.
The Mustangs still have work to do under coach Glen Ryan if they're to compete consistently with playoff regulars, as evidenced by a 56-7 District 5-AAA loss to Ooltewah on Friday night.
"They're a good football team and we didn't step up," said Ryan, whose team went 5-5 this year after a winless 2011 season and crosses its fingers for a playoff spot.
"When we go against good teams, we fail to show," Ryan said. "We've made great strides, but that's still a hurdle we have to overcome."
The Owls (7-3, 4-2) likely will have a home game to open the playoffs next Friday. Pairings will be announced today.
Coach Shannon Williams said he would like to know the Owls' opponent almost immediately.
"We're going to waste half a day because we normally exchange film on a Friday night," Williams said. "Now I won't know who we play until lunch. I'm usually done by lunch on Saturdays."
The Mustangs were done halfway through Friday's game. Ooltewah dominated the first half and led 49-7 when the band took the field.
The Owls gained 318 yards in the first half, with all but 14 coming on the ground. They averaged 9.2 yards per carry and had four rushing touchdowns before the break.
Workhorse Desmond Pittman had 154 yards and the game's opening touchdown on a 9-yard run. Fellow running back Jon Hill had 76 yards and two touchdowns: The first gave Ooltewah a 14-0 lead, and the second covered 41 yards.
T.J. Davis added 74 yards on eight carries, including a 50-yard touchdown run and a 1-yard uncontested plunge.
Walker Valley had no answer and committed two turnovers. The Mustangs' highlight of the night lasted 16 seconds when Gabe Cartwright returned a kickoff 97 yards to pull them within 14-7.
Ooltewah defensive end Michael Ruebusch had one highlight for the Owls. He batted the pass and snatched it before running 18 yards for a touchdown.
Ooltewah scored five touchdowns in a span of seven minutes and five seconds. The running backs -- behind the work of right tackle Williams Sanders and company -- finished with 352 yards on 42 carries and the Owls defense limited the Mustangs to 137 yards of offense.
"Coach said, 'We're going to depend on you,' and I turned it up," Pittman said. "It was a relief having the other guys, because I needed a few breaks."