Middle school action: Highlanders whip Warriors

Published 12:37 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

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By Ron Marvel
Star Correspondent
Middle school action took place Thursday night as the Highlanders traveled to play the Happy Valley Warriors as both teams kicked off their season. When everything was over, the Highlanders were able to take advantage of several Warrior miscues to walk away with a 28-6 win.
The game started with the Warriors driving to midfield but on fourth and two, Highlanders defensive tackle Larry Hernandez and a crew of other Highlanders were able to break contain and stop the Warriors to set the tone early and get the turnover on downs. From there Cloudland tailback Gavyn Shell would break one of his three long TD runs, this time for 48 yards. The Highlanders would then push the pile for the two-point conversion to take an early 8-0 lead. On the next series, Warriors QB Ethan Honeycutt would pick up a couple of nice runs to once again approach midfield but a Warrior fumble would stop their momentum.
It didn’t take Shell long to take advantage as he would follow his blocks for a 43-yard TD run; a false start would dampen a Highlanders two-point attempt but the new score would reflect a 14-0 Cloudland lead. Midway in the second quarter, the Warriors would start an impressive drive featuring a nice run by Jayden Powell to take the ball to the Highlanders 26-yard line, but just as the Warriors seemed on the edge of making it a ball game going into the half a tipped ball at the line would cause an interception and allow the Highlanders to take over at their 13-yard line. Looking to milk the clock, the Highlanders would drive to the Warriors 28 -yard line, the drive would be assisted with several false starts and off-sides calls against the Warriors but with just nine seconds left, Jon Wilson would rumble for a 28-yard TD scamper to pad the lead to 20-0.
The second half would start off slowly for both teams as drives would stall, Warrior Tony Gibbons would make a nice open-field tackle to force a long fourth down, as well Warrior Kaden Esterline, as he did all night, covered a lot of grass defensively on the series to help get Cloudland off the field. The Warriors would start a drive but would bog down and the Highlanders would take over with 1:23 left in the third. Once again Shell would break a couple of tackles for his third TD of the night and then Bo Wilson would find a soft spot in the endzone for the two-point conversion for a 28-0 Highlander lead. The Highlanders would look to milk the fourth quarter but midway in the final quarter, Tony Gibbons would break a six-yard run for, The Warriors, which would serve as the final score in the contest.
Both coaches would reflect on the contest afterward; Warriors coach Kevin Kendall saw some bright spots but knows at the middle school level, kids have to play mistake-free. “To be successful, you have to play mistake-free and not mistake-prone ball, they came out fired up and we were at times tonight a bit timid.” Meanwhile, Highlanders coach Conner Birchfield liked the intensity his team showed “We had good practices this week, up front we were physical and executed well; defensive coach Josh Shell put in a good game plan and they stay disciplined and tackled well, good start to the season.”

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