What could’ve have been West High’s last football game turned out to be one of its best.
The Rebels put on a first-half clinic Friday night in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs, building a 38-point lead and cruising thereafter to a 45-7 home victory over Walker Valley.
They will host Oak Ridge in the second round next Friday.
“It’s one of the better games we’ve played as a whole,” linebacker Drew Francis said. “Everyone was on tonight: offense, defense and special teams.”
The coaching staff was on point as well, not only with their preparations but also in conveying the playoff motivational theme of a one-game season. Both Francis and fellow defender Ethan Scott, who helped stuff a Mustangs’ fourth-down running play in the second quarter, referenced that message as being a catalyst for their play.
“We should come out and be at our best,” Scott said. “So that’s what we focused on doing.”
West’s offense and defense played an impressive game of complementary football before halftime. The Rebels (10-1) amassed 303 yards while holding Walker Valley (4-7) to 25 yards.
Quarterback Baker Dance was sharp from his very first throw, a 34-yard dart to Grant Tierney, who was sprinting down the left side. They later connected on a similar-type pass for a 29-yard touchdown. It was the first of two scoring passes by Dance.
“When Baker Dance plays like he did tonight, we’re pretty dang good on offense,” West coach Lamar Brown said.
Scott’s fourth-down stop set up the Rebels with a short field for TD and Omarian Wright’s interception preceded another score.
Freshman Jai Hundley and Tre’von Barfield gave an encouraging preview of future seasons by combining for three rushing touchdowns. Hundley scored two in the first half on runs of 20 and 8 yards.
“He’s fought through some injuries all year,” Brown said of Hundley, “but he’s going to be a special, special back before he leaves this place. He’s not your average freshman back. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s going to be a great player.”
The Rebels’ depth enabled them to rest fellow running back Isaiah Mattress, who’s rushed for more than 800 yards and 10 TDs. He’s recovering from multiple injuries, Brown said.
“He’s had an ankle injury, then last Friday his family was in a car wreck and he had some stitches,” Brown said. “He didn’t get them out until yesterday so we dressed him in case of an emergency but the plan was for him not to play tonight.
“It’s nice to get Isaiah some rest and it’s nice to get Jai Hundley some more experience.”
The intent going forward will be to unleash both backs, a plan that’s been underutilized so far.
“We haven’t had both of those guys healthy but in one or two games this season,” Brown said. “I’m excited to have both of them next week.”
It will be one more game in West’s season, which many Rebels should be excited about considering how many of them played on Friday.
“Any time you can get some of those guys who don’t get to play a whole lot, anytime you can get them in a game it’s huge,” Brown said. “But it’s even more important in the playoffs. Those guys work so hard. It helps morale and everything else next week in practice. So I was really pleased with the way we started in the first half.”