Warriors find good gauge with Patriots

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   BLUFF CITY -- Sullivan East, a larger school with a much-improved gridiron program, served as a good gauge Tuesday to see where this year's Happy Valley Warriors football team was standing.
   In their first scrimmage of the fall, the Warriors looked good in some areas and needed obvious work in others. One area already looking improved over a season ago was the quarterback position, where sophomore Todd Caldwell threw his passes crisp.
   "I think we threw the ball pretty well," said Happy Valley head coach Stan Ogg. "We had one ball tipped where we had problem with protection and our quarterback got out one time wrong. Other than that, we looked pretty good. I thought Todd looked really good for four days of practice."
   It helped to have sure-handed receiver Drew Davis make a couple of nice grabs. One reception Davis made after bending down and catching the ball at knee level.
   There was also some stout running from running backs Tim Whaley and Ryan Garland. Whaley had limited touches, but ran hard when he carried the ball, while Garland busted loose on one outside run for big yardage.
   "Whaley has to run well," said Ogg. "He has to be the senior leader for us. He knows it and the coaches know it. However many times he gets the ball, there is a point where he will try to put the team on his shoulders and he knows that."
   All was not grand for the HV offense, as to be expected this early in the year. A trio of fumbled exchanges would have been key turnovers if this had been an actual game.
   "Yeah, we fumbled some exchanges and fumbled the ball downfield a couple of times," commented Ogg, head coach at HV since 1997. "We need to take care of the football. We put the ball on the ground and we have to work on that. It's early, where we might miss a block, drop a catch or miss a tackle here or there. Those are all fundamental things where we will try to fix in practice."
   On the other side of the ball, the Patriots had success moving the ball through the air. In fairness to the Warrior cause, the short passes came against a run-oriented defense. One concern may be a couple of breakdowns on passes over the middle of the field that led to East touchdowns.
   "We can work on that underneath stuff when we are expecting that ball getting on the perimeter," said Ogg. "The couple of busts, the two deep ones, the first play of the game and the score they had, that's just something we as coaches will correct.
   "I don't want to say that's where we are at and we need so much more work there. We are younger there than the front eight and youth will show up there before it does up front where we have more experience."
   Ogg wasn't ready to push any alarm buttons as practice only began last week for Happy Valley and the miserable weather of the past few days has allowed the team to only take the field for two full practices.
   During those practices, messy ground conditions has had the team tromping through mud more often than sprinting toward the goal post.
   In fact, the wet conditions caused the scrimmage itself to be switched from Happy Valley over to the Patriots' home field. There was no complaining from the coaching staff about going to Bluff City, where they measured where they were at against a quality opponent.
   "East is a good football team," said Ogg. "I don't know about them comparing them to the top teams in our league, but you would think they would at least be on that same level. They are a good football team that played very well against us."