Cross county rivals… Happy Valley wants to avenge loss to ‘Landers

Published 6:00 am Friday, August 23, 2019

Last season Happy Valley traveled to Roan Mountain and suffered an 8-7 loss to the Highlanders. This season the Warriors get a chance to avenge that defeat by hosting Cloudland in the 2019 season opener on Warrior Hill tonight.
“Returning as many players as they do over there, it’s going to be really challenging,” Warriors head coach Jason Jarrett said. “Offensively you have to try and limit their number of plays and get the ball back in your hands.
“It is going to be crucial for our front eight and even our secondary to get numbers to the ball.”
Cloudland lost senior running back Jordan Coffey and quarterback Malachi Benfield but seniors Tristan Lacy and Conor Birchfield are both tough, speedy and elusive.
They will be running behind a veteran line featuring Logan Johnson, Gary Julian, Dave Ramey, Dave Miller, and
Jed Childress.
They will also have senior fullback Hunter Blair and sophomore Colin Morgan in front of them as well.
“The last thing you want is for them to control the ball for eight, nine minutes at a time which limits your touches,” Jarrett said. “It will be a total team effort, their line has some men up front who have started three or four years now.
“They have a lot of veterans and their backs are fast and physical and we’ll have to match their intensity. I expect it to be a real battle.”
Expect the visiting stands to be full as this game has become very much a rivalry game that both sides take seriously and the home side will likely be filled to capacity.
“These kids have all played each other since they were little,” Jarrett said. “And they want to win as badly as the other guy does.
“This has become a rivalry game and we have talked about that. You know what to expect when you play the blue and yellow from Roan Mountain.
“It will be a good, hard-nosed football game with a lot of intensity on both sides.”
The Warriors will try to open with the run game featuring tailback Will Tittle and fullback Jordan Campbell running behind a young and somewhat untested offensive line with just two returning starters in senior Cameron Slone at left tackle and Drew Turner at center.
The rest of the starting line are junior Kamden Richardson and sophomore Mason Hicks at guard and junior Alex Lunceford at right tackle.
The quarterback, be it junior Eli Ayers or senior Noah Stevens, will have some capable receivers to throw to when called upon to do so in juniors Blake Young, Gabe Nickles, and senior Ty Pierce.
“The first game is always about unknowns,” Jarrett said. “But the game itself is about unknowns.
“As a coach, you can think you have covered every single thing that can happen in a football game, but you don’t know how a 15-16-year-old kid is going to react when the lights come on and the stands are full.
“We have had a good offseason and I think the guys are ready. In fact, I think they were ready three weeks ago. Ready for a dog fight.”
Game time is set for 7:30 pm.

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