HV seniors Cochran, Naylor ready for last ride with Warriors

Published 2:01 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The 2018 football season is a little more than a week away, and Happy Valley seniors Luke Naylor and Dakota Cochran are chomping at the bit to hit the gridiron.
For the two Warriors, and many other senior players in the area, this season will be about making a final statement.
Since the era of head coach Jason Jarrett started in 2015, the Warriors have registered winning seasons each year with Happy Valley making a deep run to the TSSAA Class AA Playoffs where they fell 20-13 at Austin East in 2016. Last year, Happy Valley posted an 8-4 mark while taking runner-up in Region 1-AA behind Sullivan North. And Cochran, who will fill in as a running back and linebacker this year, believes that this season’s slate of Warriors will continue to carry the torch.
“I think with the momentum and leadership that we have had, if we just stay focused on our goals, we can do big things,” said Cochran. “This team has a lot of good talent. We have a lot of good young kids. They are stepping up and filling those roles that we need them to. I think that if we just stick together and keep playing together, we will be just fine.”
Naylor said he knows the expectations are high on Warrior Hill and believes the team will be able to deliver this season.
“The expectation on Warrior Hill is the same as it should have always been,” said Naylor. “It is a championship mindset, and we are all about it.”
Naylor, a returning starter, will play both sides of the ball on the line and will be expected to be a senior leader for the Warriors, and Coach Jarrett has confidence he will be able to do just that.
“Naylor is a great key leader for us,” said Jarrett. “He has been a great player, and he is heading into his fourth year. He has been a blessing to coach. He comes from a coaching family. His dad is a longtime coach. He has some really good football IQ. He is very coachable and works hard. He is without a doubt one of our leaders up front.”
And like Jarrett has confidence in Naylor to lead his team, Cochran said he has confidence in the offensive line, which will feature junior Cameron Slone, Naylor, sophomore Peyton Primeau, senior Matthew Lawson, senior Bart Wilson, and senior Bryce Carter.
“I trust them a lot, and that is a big thing,” said Cochran. “If you can trust your line, you don’t have to worry about anything, and you can just go. You don’t have to second think or anything, you can just go.”
Cochran has been a defensive powerhouse for the Warriors. Last season, Cochran claimed the conference defensive MVP title. However, the senior running back has also shown himself to be a formidable force for the Warriors’ run game.
“Size and strength,” said Jarrett about Cochran. “He has gotten bigger. I think he has gotten a step faster since last year. He is the reigning conference defensive MVP. But he also had a really good offensive season last year. Anytime we can roll his belly button over the ball, we will be doing good.
“The guys up front are opening up holes for him right now,” added Jarrett. “We have got to continue to get better. As far as Dakota goes, anytime the ball is in his hands, he is tough to tackle, because he is big, tough and fast. He runs with good shoulder pad lean. He is really aggressive in all phases of the game. I wouldn’t want to tackle him. I would hate to be a linebacker seeing that coming down the lane.”
Over the past few years, the Warriors defense, under the guidance of assistant coach Greg Hyder, has prided itself on forcing turnovers and scoring points on defense. And just like in years past, Naylor feels the Warriors defense will be just as tough.
“I think we should be able to get that done,” said Naylor. “It is just a mindset. We should be alright as long as we get those ‘biscuits’ (turnovers) as he (Hyder) says.”
For Naylor, his football career has taken him to T.A. Dugger and Unaka, but he has spent the last four years on Warrior Hill where he says is the best place to play football.
“It’s weird growing up because you are always taught all these schools you are not supposed to like,” said Naylor. “This is the best place that I have been. The community here is just awesome. It is just a great place to be.”
Naylor and Cochran, along with their teammates, will have something a little extra to be proud of this season. Here recently, the Happy Valley High School Gridiron Club completed the construct of the War Path, a stone passageway that leads the way from the locker room to the football field. And next Friday, Aug. 17, the Warriors will get to cross the path for the very first time as they host Volunteer to open up the season.
“Thanks to everybody that helped do it,” said Naylor. “Like I said, the community is awesome, and they helped build it. It is going to be really nice to walk out on that and put fear in the other team’s heart.”

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