‘Landers, HV open new season with clash on Warrior Hill
Published 8:50 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023
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Cloudland makes its second consecutive trip to Happy Valley on Friday night looking to avenge last season’s 22-14 defeat, but the prime, young Warriors will be ready to make it two straight victories.
“We’re young, but we have been young for two years now,” Warriors head coach Jason Jarrett said. “What we have to be is tough. Physically and mentally. Cloudland is a physical football team and they are bigger than us. So we have to be able to match or surpass their physicality. Football is a tough man’s sport and if we have adversity, we can’t hang our heads and say here we go again; we have to be able to push forward.”
Happy Valley comes off a tough 2-9 season in which senior running back Joseph Sowards was the bell cow offensively, gaining 900 yards rushing and he will be counted on once again to carry the load, although Jarrett wants to ease that burden a bit saying, “Sowards had big production last season but we need others to step up and take some of the burden off him.”
Cloudland finished 6-6 last season making the second round of the TSSAA playoffs before falling to Oliver Springs at Orr Field. Gage McKinney made the switch from wide receiver to quarterback and rushed for 2,000 yards in leading a high powered offense.
“Gage was a great player and he did so much for us last year,” Highlanders head coach Zac Benfield said. “This year, we will lean on Kyle Birchfield at running back and Bryce Birchfield at quarterback. Bryce has come along and has played well in our two scrimmages and Grayson Cole will be in the backfield with Kyle.”
The ‘Landers offensive and defensive lines bring back size and will anchor the squad with Cayden Cordell, Silas Burleson and Dylan McClellan each bringing experience and success at their respective positions.
“Cordell has been great for us and the entire front line has been great at opening holes,” Benfield said. “I want us to be able to get to the second level and be one on one and make people miss. We have practiced the right way and it has been good.”
The Warriors will have junior Drew Blevins at quarterback making his first start taking over from graduated Reagan Ensor.
“It seems as if Blevins has been here forever but he is just a junior,” Jarrett said. “He has done well running the offense and commanding the huddle. Cloudland is a big, physical football team and we will see where we are when we play them. They will show us quickly where we are. We want to start fast and find a way to be 1-0 when it is all said and done and take it one week at a time from there.”
Game time is 7:30 pm.