ATHENS, Tenn. - Since he had transferred to McMinn County, tailback Kelvin Wells might have lacked a comfort level with the Cherokees football team.
Friday night might have been a big step in the right direction.
Playing on their home field for the first time in a month, the Cherokees jumped to a 39-point halftime lead and cruised to a 39-8 victory over Walker Valley. Rumors had surfaced over the previous week that Walker Valley was going to contest the eligibility of Wells, a former Mustang.
"We didn't like it," McMinn junior tailback Dre Sanders said. "They were attacking one of our brothers, and we thought it was a low blow."
Four of McMinn's first five snaps went for touchdowns -- including a 54-yard completion from Corbin Powers to Blake Powers that was called back for holding. Sanders scored on runs of 31 and 59 yards in that span. He added an 8-yard run before halftime set up by his own 28-yard punt return and finished with 120 yards on four carries.
Wells finished with 76 yards on three tries, including a 67-yard run to make it 13-0.
"I was just ready to play football," Wells said. "I didn't want to let anything else affect me; I just put it in the Lord's hands and worked hard with my teammates to get this win."
Quarterback Powers hooked up with his brother on a 67-yard pass-and-catch in the second quarter, then scored the team's other touchdown on a 22-yard run. The three-headed rushing monster had 222 yards on 12 carries in the first half and totaled 298 first-half yards on 16 snaps.
Neither starting tailback played the second half.
"I think the team really rallied around Kelvin," McMinn coach Bo Cagle said. "What it did was make him feel comfortable for the first time here, because they really embraced him and made him feel like part of the family, and it gave us motivation."
Walker Valley (3-3, 0-2) scored late on a pass from Garrett Wallace to Gabe Cartwright.
"We've been able to win some nonregion games, but we're going to have to find a way to win a game that we're not supposed to win," Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan said. "I like that we don't give up, but we have to be able to compete against a team's starters if we're going to be the team we want to be."