Warriors, Buffaloes fight over

By Jeff Birchfield
West Greene plays the role of a backseat driver wanting to change directions on its 2003 football season. Happy Valley cruises into Friday night's game down at Sauceman Field wanting to stay the course.
The Buffaloes (0-2) on the season are reeling this early stage of the year after consecutive blowout losses to 4-A schools Cherokee and Johnson County.
"I keep saying that we are playing a tough schedule," said West Greene head coach Barry Carter after the loss in Mountain City. "That's not an excuse, just who we play. Sooner or later, it should help us.
"But, if we don't execute better, we can play a 4-A team or Mosheim Elementary, it doesn't matter."
The Warriors know the early season record can be deceptive of how tough of a fight they are in for, especially on the Buffs' home field.
"Last year we got West Greene when they were 3 and 0," pointed out HV head coach Stan Ogg. "This year we have them when they are 0-2, but they have lost to two impressive 4-A teams.
"They will be a little angry wanting to fix that situation. Our last two trips down there we haven't played our best football. Last year we were tied at halftime and it took a gutsy performance to win."
Happy Valley (2-0) couldn't have asked for a better start to the season, winning on the road at North Greene and whipping up on archrival Unicoi County at home this past Thursday.
"I liked our intensity for 48 minutes," said Ogg about last week's win. "That was one of our goals set before the game. We only had two series where we weren't getting under their pads and lining up right.
"We have some things to correct on defense, but we tackled better, gang tackled better and our pursuit angles were better. Erwin knew we were there when they snapped the football."
Carter showed concern for his own defense playing against Warrior senior running back Tim Whaley, who tallied 80 yards in the win over Unicoi.
"We got up close and personal with him last season," said Carter about No. 33. "He's a challenge for us. We know what they are going to do. They are going to run the ball right at us. We just have to be ready to play and come up with some way of shutting him down."
The Buffs are counting on several stops during the game, particularly since their offense is struggling. They fumbled seven times against Johnson County, losing the ball on four of those occasions.
"Our defense improved the second game, but our offense needs to come around," said Carter. "Offense is tough. It's not just reacting to the ball, but you have to be smart and concentrate. That's an area we have to concentrate on."
West Greene is inexperienced at quarterback with quarterback Anthony Beach taking a long time to set-up for his passes against Johnson County. A good bet is to look for more north-south running from big tailback Eric Large against the Warrior defense.
Happy Valley, which tweaked its offense during the offseason, has scored an average of 31 points per game in the two opening wins.
Whaley scored four touchdowns last week, while Ryan Garland gave them speed to the outside on other running plays. In the North Greene game, Garland and Michael Hollifield provided a good 1-2 punch at the tailback position. When the Warriors have needed the punishing fullback straight ahead, Lance Whitehead has been that player.
Drew Davis has shined as an athletic receiver for quarterback Todd Caldwell, while the line of Daniel Dover, Jordy Harrison, Josh Smith, Cane Cannon and Austin Shell has opened running lanes and provided good pass protection.
Last week, Caldwell barely missed on a couple of throws to Greg Swafford and Derrick Hamm or those two players could have easily gotten their names in the scoring summary as well.
The defense has remained tough in goal line situations with the play of Will Lowe and Vince Hodge above even what was expected of them. The punting game, particularly the pursuit of the ball has been excellent, seen last week in a momentum changing fumble recovery in the second quarter.
"Our coverage and protection has been good," said Ogg. "We take the punt coverage very seriously. Where else do you get a 35-yard play that often in football? Our coaches work hard on that and we were pretty pleased. We had six people in the picture last week when the (Unicoi) player fumbled that high towering punt."
Whether the direction of the Buffalo team is changed this Friday night or at a later time, Carter is confident they will improve.
"We are going to get better, keep trying and see what we can do," declared Carter. "We will bounce back. We just have to stay upbeat and keep working."
Just don't expect the Warriors to leave the road by taking their mind off West Greene. Any talk of next week's game against Elizabethton has been a taboo subject.
"That's who we play next week?" replied Ogg when asked if anyone was looking ahead to the Cyclones. "We're playing West Greene and that's all I know. The players have to know that or the coaches will let them know quickly we are playing West Greene."