Happy Valley pulls out a late win over ‘Dogs, 14-8

Published 1:56 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

The next man up mentality took shape on Warrior Hill on Friday night when junior quarterback Eli Ayers came in off the bench in the fourth quarter and with 14.7 seconds showing on the clock hit junior receiver Gabe Nickles with a 13 yard scoring strike to give Happy Valley a 14-8 Mountain East Conference win over the Hampton Bulldogs.
“Coach just tells me if you get pressure up top to get under it,” Ayers said. “I did and I saw Gabe waving his arms and I just threw it up there.
“Coach is always talking about the big situation, you have to put your name on it and make it yours. We always feel like we can win as long as there is time on the clock.”
The Warriors (3-0, 1-0 MEC) quick-strike offense showed itself once again on the first offensive series as Noah Stevens found sophomore Andrew Little on a quick crossing route that Little took 47 yards to the end zone and a 7-0 Happy Valley lead at the 9:37 mark of the first period.
Hampton (1-2, 0-1 MEC) opened the second period at its own 26-yard line and the Bulldogs marched to the HV 28 yard line before a penalty set the ‘Dogs back to the 33-yard line.
An incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball to the Warriors with a little over two minutes left until the half.
The first half statistics had HV with 101 yards of total offense – 58 in the air and 43 on the ground – and three first downs. The ‘Dogs had 82 rushing yards but just nine through the air with sophomore quarterback Conor Jones just 1-for-5 passing.
“We squandered some opportunities,” Bulldogs head coach Michael Lunsford said. “My guys never showed an ounce of quit and we did some good things up front blocking. We had some kids run the ball well, but we came up a few plays short.”
Hampton opened the third period with another time consuming but futile drive, marching from its own 40 to the Warriors nine-yard line where the ball went over on downs.
The ‘Dogs finally broke through in the fourth quarter with a 42-yard touchdown drive with Matt Hughes going in from the four-yard line and Jones connected with Caleb Oaks on the two-point try for an 8-7 Hampton lead.
Things looked bleak for the Warriors when they went three-and-out including a sack from Aidan Vines that pushed HV back to the 33-yard line from where a short punt gave Hampton the ball at the 35-yard line.
HV stopped the Bulldogs for the first time in the second half and took possession at the 20 yard line with just over 1:30 left to play.
A big play for the Warriors occurred when Hampton was flagged for a hit out of bounds which gave HV a first down at the 40-yard line.
Ayers tossed a 10-yard shovel pass to senior running back Will Tittle and found Little for 17 to the 13-yard line.
After spiking the ball to stop the clock Ayers scrambled left to avoid the rush of Oaks and found Nickles in the end zone with the winning pass.
“I’m proud of my kids and proud of my coaches,” Warriors head coach Jason Jarrett said. “Eli Ayers is a true warrior. Talk about quarterback moxie he comes in as second-string guy and he kept his eyes downfield, out of the pocket and making plays.
“The receiver stayed with the route and that’s a total team effort there. We are blessed to be 3-0 and Hampton played their hind ends off and that is one of the best offenses we’ll see this year and we held them to just eight points.”
For Hampton, Hughes rushed for 92 yards on 21 carries and the ‘Dogs rushed for 191 yards as a team. For HV, Ayers completed 5-for-10 for 48 yards and Stevens had a rough night going just 3-for-9 for 58 yards but with a touchdown.
Happy Valley 14-8
Hampton       0  0  0  8 –  8
Happy Valley 7  0  0  7 – 14
Scoring summary
First Quarter 
HV – Little 47 pass from Stevens (Cochran kick) 9:37
Fourth Quarter
H – Hughes 4 run (Jones pass to Oaks) 9:57
HV – Nickles 13 pass from Ayers (Cochran kick) :14.7

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