A battle on Warrior Hill… Happy Valley takes Saturday prime time contest over Cloudland, 34-18
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
HAPPY VALLEY – Two teams itching to finally get on the field and play a sport they love finally were able to on Saturday night as Happy Valley and Cloudland butted heads in the season opener for both with the Warriors managing to gain the upper hand in a 34-18 victory.
And after the effort given by Warrior senior Matthew Bahn, his teammates will have to start calling him Mr. Bahn after the fleet-footed back tallied five scores to lead his team to the win.
With fans on both sides ready for some prep football, the Highlanders and Warriors were ready to oblige as Bahn got the home team on the board first in the game with a one-yard plunge with 8:51 showing on the clock.
The Warriors appeared to be having problems getting the point-after ready to go but it was just a mirage as quarterback Eli Ayers found Bahn for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 Warrior lead.
After struggling to move the ball on a couple of drives, the tenacious Highlanders finally were able to put their first score of the season on the board when quarterback Chase Shell sliced and diced his way to a 27-yard touchdown run with 2:11 remaining in the period.
The score was set up when Coy Laney picked off an Ayers pass.
Cloudland’s two-point conversion failed and the quarter ended with Happy Valley on top, 8-6.
It would only take the Warriors and Bahn 1:07 into the second quarter to extend their lead to 14-6 as Bahn plowed in from the four-yard line.
Happy Valley attempted the two-point conversion and failed leaving the scoreboard reading 14-6 with 10:53 before the half.
Both teams were stingy on defense for most of the second period before the Highlanders finally managed to put another score on their side of the board to keep the game within reach.
Senior Seth Birchfield rammed his way over the goal line as rain fell steadily from four yards out to flip the scoreboard to 14-12. The ‘Landers two-point conversion failed and the teams headed to the locker room with Happy Valley leading 14-12.
The turning point of the game came in the third quarter as the Warriors came out of the locker room with a little pep to their step and the energy transformed to the field.
With 9:33 showing on the clock, Mr. Bahn weaved his way to a seven-yard scoring run to push the Warrior lead to 20-12 as the point-after attempt by Cameron Cochran was no good.
After shutting the Highlanders down on the ensuing drive, Happy Valley went back to work.
Their effort paid off as the fourth score of the night from Bahn came on a one-yard plunge with 5:34 left in the third quarter. Peyton Primeau’s point-after came up short leaving the score at 26-12 in Happy Valley’s favor.
Cloudland needed a score but couldn’t produce one as the Warriors led by the same 26-12 score at the end of the quarter.
In desperate need of a score to keep the game close, the Highlanders received a boost when Birchfield once again bullied his way across the goal line from two yards out to close the gap to 26-18 as the two-point conversion failed with 11:58 remaining in the contest.
Bahn would seal the deal just a little over two minutes later as he took off on a dazzling 52-yard run zigging and zagging his way into the end zone.
He added the cherry on top with a two-point conversion as Bahn had a hand in all 34 points scored by the Warriors in the contest.
Both teams worked several subs in over the course of the final minutes of the contest.
HV Coach Jason Jarrett speaks about the win
“We are very blessed to be out here. We are 1-0 and it wasn’t pretty in any way but the thing is we found a way to get it done and win the first game of the season.
“Cloudland’s a tough bunch – they are going to be just fine. They are tough-nosed kids and our kids responded. We challenged them real good at halftime and the guys came out in the second half and played really well.
“Your expectations coming in you really don’t know what is going to happen – you hadn’t had any scrimmages and you haven’t had any games so its the only true experience that we have really had.
“We got gassed which every team is in the same boat as we are. We turned it over too much on the offensive side of the ball but we had some big explosive plays and we just have to find a way to get better this week. We have to get in shape because we have a real tough game coming up next week in the first region game against Hampton.”
CHS Coach Scott Potter shares his thoughts on ‘Landers
“When you have 14 kids and you are only rotating two kids into the game, just wears on you in a game. Coach Jarrett does a good job and they got tired just like we did but they had a little more firepower than we did.
“The determination is what is so special about this group. I begged kids to come out and this is the group that is dedicated. They are dedicated to Cloudland, they are dedicated to football, and they are dedicated to everything that we want football to be at Cloudland.
“They come into practice and work their tails off and I can’t ask for any more effort.
“If we can execute a little better, then maybe down the road we’ll get better.
“It gives the kids confidence. I don’t know if in the back of their minds they felt they could stay on the field with Happy Valley but it gives them a reason to have more confidence and work harder and get in better shape.”
Happy Valley has little time to celebrate as they must prepare for a region showdown with Hampton at JC Campbell Stadium this coming Friday night at 7:30 pm.
Hampton enters the game also at 1-0 after their opening-season win over Unicoi County. It should be another barnburner between the two county schools.
Cloudland, meanwhile, has worked out a game on the road Friday night at Cosby which lost out on a game to Sullivan North due to the COVID-19. Kickoff will be at 7:30 pm in Cosby.