Defense plays big role in Warriors success

Published 9:54 am Friday, October 27, 2017

On Warrior Hill, when anyone is asked what makes the Happy Valley defense tick, the answer most often heard is “pride.”
“We take great pride in our defense up here, and we have for some time,” said Happy Valley head coach Jason Jarrett said. “It is something that we put a lot of work into every week.”
The Warriors came into the 2017 season after losing nine defensive starters to graduation. And despite the loss of many key players,  the Warrior defense has remained strong. Happy Valley opened the season on a five-game winning streak, during which the Warriors pitched three shutouts while holding their opponents to just 27 points. The Warriors will be playing the final game of the regular season tonight as they travel to South Greene, and up to this point, Happy Valley has allowed only a combined 90 points. Grace Christian had the best luck, scoring 27, while the Warriors have held all their other opponents to 15 points or less.
Happy Valley senior Nathaniel Nickles plays a key role as he fills in at the middle linebacker spot where he has recorded 89 tackles on the season while serving as a leader. When asked what makes the Warriors defense so strong, Nickles echoed the same sentiment of Jarrett.
“I would have to say our pride,” said Nickles. “We have a lot of pride in our defense. We are also a family, and we stay together pretty good.”
The Warriors are led in tackles by linebacker Dakota Cochran who has racked up 109 this season. Other top tacklers are Landon Morefield (63 tackles), Eli Fleenor (55 tackles, 2 sacks), Luke Naylor (49 tackles, 4 sacks), and Karrington Richardson (50 tackles, 2 sacks).
Throughout the season, the Warriors have caused offenses problems by forcing turnover after turnover. According to Jarrett, Happy Valley, through their first five games, had roughly a 19-2 turnover ratio, meaning they had caused opposing team to turnover the ball 19 times while only giving the ball up two times themselves.
“Coach Greg Hyder likes to call them biscuits (turnovers),”  said Nickles. “As long as we are getting them biscuits we are doing good.”
Happy Valley’s Luke Phillips has played a big part in the Warriors turnover machine with 4 interception, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. HV’s Will Tittle has recorded 3 interceptions on the year while Cochran has picked off 2.
Other key players that make the Warriors defense tick are defensive backs Jacob Surcey, Brayden Sams, and Josh Hyatt.
“All our players take this seriously and play hard,” said Jarrett.
The mastermind behind the Warriors defense is defensive coordinator Greg Hyder who has been coaching at Happy Valley for the past three seasons.
“He was my defensive coordinator when I played,” said Coach Jarrett. “I would have ran through a wall for him. He has a talent of motivating kids. He is a technician on that side of the ball.”
Coach Jarrett went on to say the Warriors success as a whole is in part due to the hard work put in by his coaching staff which includes Hyder, Randy Ferrell (OL/MLB), Todd Caldwell (QB/DB), Adam Copeland (WR/OLB), Justin Bowling (RB/OLB), Jordan Taylor (OL/DL), and Brandon Mottern, who is also the Happy Valley Middle School football coach.
“Our coaches do a phenomenal job of preparing our guys by breaking down film and getting other teams’ tendencies,” said Jarrett. “They do a great job of translating those tendancies to our players. We feel that when we go into games on Friday night, we are going to be very well prepared to get the job done.”
Following tonight’s game, the Warriors will begin play in the TSSAA Class AA playoffs and will host in the opening round.

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