Nice tune-up for Little Watauga

By Wes Holtsclaw


   Junior high football season began in an orderly manner Saturday evening.
   With four of the five conference teams involved, the Little Watauga Conference Jamboree exploded onto Orr Field in Roan Mountain for a preview of the 2002 season.
   Johnson County was the big winner on the evening, defeating Happy Valley 8-6 and Hampton 8-0 in successive quarters to begin the outing.
   Happy Valley and Hampton closed the night with wins over Cloudland. The Junior Warriors topped the Junior Highlanders 16-6, while the Junior 'Dogs pulled out an 8-0 advantage in the fourth quarter.
   Despite the results, each of the teams involved in the Little Watauga Conference Jamboree learned a thing or two about their teams in their first appearance on the field.
   It also gave each of the coaches a sneak peek of their opponents for the conference outings.
   In the first quarter, Johnson County and Happy Valley battled to an 8-6 decision. Jesse Atwood helped plow towards the end zone for the Jr. 'Horns, with a Justin Harmon conversion to take an 8-0 lead early.
   Happy Valley returned an answer on their first play in the next series with a Francisco Bourquez 70-yard touchdown run. A missed conversion kept the game at 8-6.
   Chuck Rollins and Frank Birchfield made some good defensive stops for Happy Valley, but efficient clock work from Johnson County pushed towards the end of the quarter.
   Hampton took the field at the start of the second quarter for a stiff battle with Johnson County. The Junior Bulldogs hit a brick wall in their opening set, but returned with awesome defense, forcing a fumble on Johnson County's first possession.
   Another possession swap gave the Jr. 'Horns good field position and set up another score from Harmon, this time a 27-yarder. A conversion from Atwood gave Johnson County an 8-0 lead over halfway through the quarter.
   The Jr. 'Dogs roared back with some carries from Dustin Jaynes, but it wasn't enough and a fumble gave Johnson County the ball back with under a minute to go, holding the 8-0 push.
   Halftime activities featured the annual punt, pass, kick, fastest lineman, and fastest back competitions.
   Hampton's Josh Cole took the punt competition, defeating Cloudland's Jordan Buck by a yard with his 31-yard attempt. Cole's teammate, Jaynes, overpowered Happy Valley's Jordan Lewis with a 45-yard pass to take the throwing event.
   Hampton pulled another big win with David Caldwell sweeping the fastest lineman competition.
   Happy Valley's Frank Birchfield beat out two 31-yard kicks with a 34-yarder to take the kicking event. The Warriors won with Francisco Bourquez in the backs event; Bourquez edged out Atwood, Jaynes and Josh Dugger to take the crown.
   Cloudland debuted in the third quarter against Happy Valley, and started with some good runs from Josh Harrison. Warrior defense gave Francisco Bourquez good field position to explode again with a 40-yard touchdown. A Frank Birchfield conversion gave the tribe an 8-0 lead.
   Cloudland answered with a stiff battle downfield. Some runs from Harrison and Rodney Hill set up a nice pass from Michael Lunsford to Jared Kodak. The pass set up a Hill touchdown, but a conversion miss kept Cloudland trailing 8-6.
   The Jr. 'Landers defense looked strong in the next series, but Happy Valley exploited some speed in two straight plays. Birchfield powered a 40-yard gain downfield, with another Bourquez 40-yard score and conversion to make it a 16-6 Warrior lead.
   Cloudland made a valiant effort with a 40-yard pass from Lunsford to Kodak, but fell short with a timed-out clock going into the fourth quarter.
   Hampton came back out and shocked Cloudland early. Jaynes took a 25-yarder off to the races early, and then scored with a 42-yard scatter across the state line. A D.J. Oliver conversion tallied the score at 8-0.
   Cloudland battled back and forth with Hampton, but the Jr. 'Dogs were too much in their 8-0 win.
   The season starts this week with some early battles, featuring Johnson County on the road at Cloudland this Thursday evening. Unaka will also be in the mix in a few weeks as its football program just took off in Stoney Creek.
   It should be an interesting year for the Watauga Valley Conference.