Mutual respect… Happy Valley, Unaka meet on Goddard Field for cross-county showdown

Published 12:52 am Friday, September 27, 2019

Friday night’s contest in Stoney Creek between Happy Valley and Unaka is a tale of two different teams that have been going different directions in the first half of the 2019 regular football season.
Even with a significant loss at Unicoi County, the Warriors are in the driver’s seat in Region 1-2A with a 2-0 conference mark and sit at 4-1 overall while the Rangers sit at 0-1 in Region 1-1A and an overall mark of 1-4.
But there are still five games remaining on each team’s schedule and each one is important whether it’s conference or non-conference when it comes to seeding in postseason play.
While Unaka isn’t sitting where head coach O’Brien Bennett saw them coming into the 2019 campaign, there is still time to fix the issue that has been a thorn in the flesh to the team the entire season and that is turnovers as a couple of the losses could have had different outcomes had it not been for the Rangers being their own worse enemy.
“Obviously, we are not where we wanted to be in the win column,” said Bennett. “We can’t beat ourselves. When we won, there wasn’t a lot of mistakes and not a lot of unforced errors against Cosby.
“Against North Greene, we had four interceptions and one fumble, against Hancock County we had a lot of unforced errors defensively and last week at Jellico we had six turnovers.
“We have to take one play at a time and stay focused which is something that we are trying to learn as a staff and as a team,” Bennett continued. “We need to move on to the next play and execute and eliminate errors.”
Even though Happy Valley has a pretty intact record, the loss to Unicoi County was a real eye-opener to both the coaches and players on Warrior Hill.
“In four and a half years of coaching, that loss was the worse loss since I took over as head coach,” stated Warrior head chief Jason Jarrett. “I am proud of the way the kids responded last week against Cosby because we were very embarrassed by the way we played at Unicoi Co.
“Our goals are still intact to win a conference championship and get home-field advantage in the playoffs. But these non-conference games are just as critical as the conference games.
“Coach Bennett has done a great job with what they have and they are very capable athletes,” Jarrett continued. “They do a lot of things that we do in our schemes and are very aggressive on defense. We are going to have to play really good Friday.
“I am going to say that we are blessed to be where we are at right now.”
Both coaches are highly respected for how they handle their teams and have a mutual respect for one another.
However, Bennett would somehow like to get the upper hand in the game Friday to spur his team on down the stretch toward the playoffs while Jarrett knows his Warriors need to somehow maintain the momentum they gained last week and not let one slip through their fingers against the Rangers.
On paper it would be easy to say the Warriors have a big advantage, but as everyone knows that is the reason why you play the game and cannot go by what is written in ink.
Kickoff for this rivalry contest is 7:30 pm.

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