Jr. Warriors thwart Unaka

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Happy Valley Jr. Warriors continued their domination on defense Tuesday night, as they held Unaka to a touchdown in a 22-6 Little Watauga final at Warrior Hill.
   Happy Valley had shut out its last two opponents coming into the game, but a trick play on the Rangers special teams was the only damage the Warriors suffered.
   "I think we had a little letdown tonight, but on the other hand Unaka is improving and are well-coached, plus Wilson ran his guts out," said Happy Valley coach Alex Payne.
   Unaka drove the ball down the field on the opening kickoff, with Jeff Wilson grinding out an average chunk of five yards at a time.
   A nice misdirection play to Steven Lapp on a 12-yard gain moved the ball down to the 4-yard line to make it first and goal.
   The Warrior defense stepped up to deny Unaka from crossing the goal, when Chuck Rollins and Logan Birchfield combined to make the stoppage on Wilson at the 3-yard line on fourth down.
   "We had to bring some more people up to the line, and they hit the hole quicker than a lot of teams, but I'm glad we was able to turn something positive out of it," said Payne.
   Next play, Birchfield busted through the line, breaking several tackles, to go on a 97-yard touchdown run.
   Francisco Borquez added the two-point conversion on a run up the gut, spinning his way into the end zone to make it 8-0 Warriors.
   "We moved the ball well on them early, and I was hoping we could punch it in, but then we had a defensive letdown and gave them an opportunity to get on the board," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson.
   Happy Valley mounted a drive on its next series, with Borquez taking a pitch from Daniel Shankle on a sweep for a 21-yard gain.
   A pitch to the tailback slot and a pass from Jordan Lewis covered 25 yards, with Caleb Johnson making the reception despite two defenders hanging all over him.
   First and goal from the 9-yard line, Birchfield blasted his way into the end zone, giving the Warriors a 14-0 advantage with 3:36 left in the half.
   "I'm glad our players got adjusted and played better in the second and third quarters, but at the same time we have to do a lot of improving before Thursday night," said Payne.
   A turnover by the Rangers off a fumble from Lapp at midfield gave Happy Valley the ball on the Unaka 45, with Brandon Whitehead making the recovery.
   Unaka's defense held and force a punt by the Warriors, which ended with disaster, when the snap went over Birchfield's head making it a 16 yard loss on the play.
   Birchfield got up limping a little bit, as he seen limited action in the backfield during the second-half.
   "There's nothing seriously wrong with him, but he's pretty banged up and kindly gassed all the way around," said Payne.
   The Warriors escaped the half with no damage, and received the ball to start the second half.
   Their drive ended when Shankle's attempted pass to Brandon Jaynes was picked off by Michael Carpenter at the 29.
   Happy Valley's defense, though, shut down Unaka's offense as soon as it crossed mid-field.
   The Warriors had the ball heading into the fourth quarter, retaining the 14-point margin, where they looked to put the final nail in the coffin.
   After two plays ran in the final period, Lewis got the handoff on the misdirection to break a 57-yard touchdown plus making a juke to elude a tackle around the 10-yard line.
   "They're very talented and have a lot of weapons who can break it at any time, but I thought we did a good job of trying to keep them down," said Coach Wilson.
   The Warriors added two points on the run from Borquez, making it a 22-0 score.
   Unaka brought out some razzle dazzle on the kickoff return with a backwards pass going to Wilson, where he ran a 64-yard touchdown to give the Rangers their first score.
   "My guys fought hard all night, and we expected to have to scrape and claw against this good Happy Valley team," said Coach Wilson.
   Both teams stopped one another on their next series of downs, as each club was forced to punt.
   Unaka was at their own 32, when they had a punt partially blocked by Lewis with the ball rolling past the first down with the Rangers recovering.
   With the clock winding down, Unaka was unsuccessful in acquiring another score.
   Lapp was tripped up by Adam Buck on a fourth down and four with Birchfield finishing off the play making the tackle.
   "I thought we moved the ball well, and then we would turn it over, then they would break a big one on us," Coach Wilson said. "But that's a talented team and that's what talented teams do."