Walker Valley senior quarterback Tucker Pope was determined this offseason to put himself and his teammates in the best position possible for success.
Pope's ability to build chemistry with his receivers and get a firm handle of the offense in year two under coach Drew Akins has made standout performances like last Friday's 49-14 homecoming victory over White County possible.
"This offseason we grinded every single day even though the season ahead wasn't promised," said Pope who is the Times Free Press Player of the Week after completing 15-of-26 passes for 222 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 68 yards and a sixth score.
"I hit the weights a lot and pushed myself to get in the best shape. I also met the receivers every single day from March on and we would throw and work on routes. I really have trust in those guys and formed a great chemistry with Brody Swafford, who is the fastest player on the team. We all have a lot more confidence now."
The Mustangs (2-2) look fully capable of doubling their win total from last season when they finished 4-7 after only winning one game the previous two seasons.
In a pair of three-point road losses to Bradley Central and Rhea County it was Walker Valley which looked poised to win both.
"Our freshman and sophomore season a lot of us were starting and inexperienced," said Swafford, a senior who leads the team with 23 catches for 360 yards and four receiving scores to go with an impressive three touchdown returns on special teams.
"Those first two years we would walk through school and hear people say you are awful and will never be good. That motivates you to keep going and prove them wrong. Now, we are going into every game confident we are going to win. We truly feel like we are the best team every time we hit the field."
Pope has executed the spread offense wonderfully, as the 6-foot-3 passer can connect on pinpoint 50-yard throws and also run the read-option very effectively.
Working in tandem with his quarterback coach and brother, Tyler who started coaching him when he was just five years old, Tucker has completed 62-of-95 passes for 815 yards and eight touchdowns, and also leads the team with 44 carries for 230 yards and six scores.
"I am so proud of Tucker," Akins said. "Just because he came here didn't mean he was going to be the best player or be the guy. Since he arrived he's done everything possible to be the best quarterback he can be. He and Brody deserve to be mentioned with all the great players in this county and around the area."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.