Happy Valley Dominates Unaka 35-0
Published 9:18 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023
BY C.Y. Peters
A Warrior’s Triumph
The excitement at Goddard Field was palpable as the Happy Valley Warriors faced off against their long-standing rivals, Unaka. It was a clash that held a promise of redemption, a chance to overturn the painful memories of their previous encounters. Joe Sowards, the formidable “Big Warrior Chief,” wasted no time and scored a touchdown before Josh Deyton could even sell his first funnel cake that Friday night.
Sowards’ presence on the field was nothing short of awe-inspiring. He single-handedly turned the tide of the game, securing three touchdowns and rushing for just over 100 yards. His domination of Unaka was a sight to behold, as he bulldozed through their defenses, leaving them in his wake. Happy Valley had been yearning for this kind of performance for years.
“To their credit, our kids continued to battle, they adjusted well to some things we’ve never practiced, they got knocked down and kept getting back up,” said Coach O’Brien Bennett. It was evident in Sowards’ relentless pursuit of victory.
Reversal of Fortunes
In recent history, the Rangers had been Happy Valley’s tormentors, winning the last three meetings, including a humiliating 34-0 defeat in the previous year’s final game. However, this year was different. The Warriors displayed their strength on both offense and defense, holding the Rangers to a dismal negative 12 yards on the ground. A.J. Greenless, Kian Barton, Connor McKinney, and Isaiah White, the Rangers’ runners, could hardly make a dent in Happy Valley’s defense.
“To their credit, our kids continued to battle, they adjusted well to some things we’ve never practiced, they got knocked down and kept getting back up,” Coach Bennett remarked, emphasizing the resilience of his players. It was this determination that ultimately led to their triumphant reversal of fortunes.
Aidan Paul and Jamie Esterline Shine
Aidan Paul and Jamie Esterline emerged as the heroes of the night for the Warriors. Their touchdowns added to Happy Valley’s triumphant tally. Esterline’s touchdown marked the 35th point, triggering the running clock. The game was clearly out of Unaka’s reach, and their spirits were waning.
“Connor McKinney was an absolute warrior Friday. He took a lot of shots and just kept bouncing back up,” Coach Bennett praised McKinney’s tenacity, mirroring the resilience that characterized the Warriors’ performance.
Unaka’s Glimmer of Hope
Despite the overwhelming dominance of Happy Valley, there was a glimmer of hope for Unaka. Connor McKinney, who had now taken on the role of quarterback, completed 12 passes out of 22 attempts. However, this achievement was marred by two interceptions that were returned, setting up scores for the Warriors. It was a night to forget for the Rangers.
As the final whistle blew, Happy Valley celebrated a resounding victory. Their jubilant band and passionate fan base were a true highlight of the night. It was heartening to see the Warrior football spirit back on track as Coach Jason Jarrett marked his ninth season as head coach.
“We must come up with a game plan for a tough Thomas Walker team that visits the creek Friday night. They are a senior-laden team, especially up front,” noted Coach Bennett, turning his focus to the challenges that lie ahead.
With the taste of victory still fresh, Happy Valley now looks forward to a promising season. The upcoming matches against Hancock and others hold the promise of more victories. The dream of winning three games in a row, a feat not achieved since 2020, beckons the Warriors. Back then, they outscored their opponents 162-30, leaving an indelible mark on their legacy. Happy Valley has shown that they were back, stronger and more determined than ever. Unaka will host Thomas Walker, Virginia, next Friday night. Coach Bennett’s words, “Happy Valley is a tough, physical football team,” echo in the hearts of the Warriors as they strive for greatness this season.