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Warriors, Highlanders set for Saturday clash… Preparations in overdrive for season-opening contest

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Football isn’t for the faint of heart at either Happy Valley or Cloudland this week as both schools are in ultra drive preparing for their first football game of 2020 when the two meet on Warrior Hill for a Saturday evening prime time contest.
Both schools were idled for two weeks due to concerns over the COVID-19 increase in the county but as soon as they received their signed consent forms from each athlete’s parents have been hard at it and didn’t anticipate getting a game in this week until the TSSAA approved their request on Monday afternoon late.
With that approval, both teams are looking forward to squaring off against an opposing opponent for the first time in 2020.
“It’s a fast track right now,” stated Warrior head coach Jason Jarrett. “We have been working toward this since July. Unfortunately, we were shut down for a little bit but we practiced all weekend and we are going all out this week.
“We are going to have a short practice on Saturday morning after our media day. We are just trying to get as many days in as possible.”
With other schools already participating in an opening game plus being able to practice while the Carter County School football programs were put on ice for two weeks, Jarrett felt like this game was important to both schools to be able to get on the field at least once before entering their respective region games.
It also required Jarrett to make a courtesy call to explain the reason why they didn’t reschedule their first canceled game with Chuckey-Doak.
“We had to cancel the first two games so when we found out that we were going to play Cloudland on Saturday I called Chuckey-Doak and explained before they heard about it,” Jarrett stated.
“There are schools that are three weeks ahead of us. Our priority right now is to reschedule Carter County schools and take care of them first.”
With just a matter of a few days to prepare, there won’t be any flashiness to what the Warriors will be doing in their game plan. There simply isn’t enough time to get anything in besides the basics of the game.
“We are trying to trim the fat and coach fundamentals and just let the kids have fun and play the game,” Jarrett explained. “We didn’t know we were going to play on Saturday until we heard from the TSSAA who approved it.
“The reason we are playing on Saturday was to give both programs an extra day to practice. We want to play as many games as we can. When we canceled the two games we were down to eight and then Trinity Academy closed down so we were down to seven. Playing this game will at least move us back up to eight games now.”
The opportunity couldn’t come at a better time for both communities after having to sweat it out waiting to see if they were even going to have a season.
Jarrett feels like the game will be crucial to the mental state of kids at both programs after having to miss out on so much already.
“We are getting the kids a chance to play and give them back a sense of normalcy,” Jarrett added. “They are very excited as we were able to confirm today that things were good to go.
“There aren’t going to be a lot of bells and whistles. We just need to take care of the ball and do the things that we know to do. We wanted to get a game under our belt. It just made sense to get the game in and get the first-game jitters out. This would give both teams an opportunity to play before the first region game.
“We need to get in-game shape because there is nothing like being in game shape. You have to play games to do that.”
All teams are required to follow the guidelines laid out by the TSSAA recently if games are to be played. That includes wearing face coverings, limiting the number of fans attending, and social distancing.
Jarrett was asked about how the ticket process would be handled.
“That is still in process and should be released sometime on Tuesday as the athletic director is handling that,” Jarrett said. “I believe that all tickets will be pre-sold and none will be sold at the gate.
“The number of tickets is still being finalized. Players, band, and cheerleaders will have first dibs on the tickets which will be sold as a season ticket.”
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Roan Mountain, but both coaches felt like moving the game to Happy Valley just made more sense.
The extra game at home now means the Warriors will be playing most of their games on their home turf.
“We are going to have six home games,” Jarrett commented. “This game was supposed to be on the road but Cloudland agreed to play at our place and we will split the gate.
“Some people may hate my guts for playing this game but it is a no brainer. We started June 2nd and went to the dead period and then started back after the dead period until August 4th.
“We did all the heat acclimation, went in shorts and pads, and everything that we were supposed to do. We did shut down a little earlier due to erring on the side of precaution.”
The kickoff for the contest will be at 7:30 pm.