Warriors hang on at end in 7-6 ball game


Photo by Dave Boyd
J.C. Atkinson of Elizabethton and Happy Valley's Tim Whaley go for a loose ball. Atkinson made the recovery.

By Ivan Sanders
STAR STAFF
isanders@starhq.com
Like two Old West gunfighters meeting in the streets to settle a dispute, the Happy Valley Warriors came to Brown-Childress Stadium, looked down the barrel of the Elizabethton Cyclones' six-shooter and walked away by beating the Cyclones to the draw.
Scoring on a quick two-play touchdown after a Tim Whaley interception at the Elizabethton 32-yard line and subsequent return to the EHS 7, the Warriors held off the Cyclones by a score of 7-6 on Friday night.
"I really don't have the words to say right now," said an overwhelmed Warrior head coach Stan Ogg. "These guys did an outstanding job, and 11 people decided we needed first downs and we were able to do the things we wanted to do."
After the interception, Whaley carried for a four-yard gain before quarterback Todd Caldwell called his own number to put the Warriors on top from three yards out. The point-after was questionable, with the Cyclone sideline feeling like Casey Shatley's boot traveled beneath the crossbar, but the important PAT counted and the Warriors held a 7-0 edge.
The Cyclone faithful knew the night was going to be long, as Happy Valley ran 21 plays in the first quarter alone, including a 19-play drive that ate up most of the quarter before stalling out on fourth down.
Whaley was the horse the Warriors rode in the first half, with the senior tailback racking up 112 yards on 17 carries to keep the chains moving. The Warrior defense was superb as it forced the Cyclones into two Jake Berkley interceptions by Whaley and Drew Davis, while holding speedy Lester Bailey in check to carry the 7-0 advantage to the locker room at intermission.
The second half was one of big tackles and intense emotions, as Berkley was knocked out on the Cyclones' first possession with a knee injury, forcing sophomore Weston Jeffers into action.
Jeffers seemed to ignite the Cyclone offense as the big quarterback directed Elizabethton on a nine-play, 36-yard scoring drive. Brad Osborne carried for 12 yards on the drive and Jordan Bray added 26 yards to carry the Cyclones to the 10-yard line.
Jeffers and Adam Turley hooked up three times on the drive for 33 yards, with the last nine going for the score with 1:05 left in the third quarter. The all-important extra point was shanked right by Craig Estep and the Warriors clung to the 7-6 lead.
After the Cyclone kickoff to the Warriors, emotions became a little heated with Happy Valley being penalized for two unsportsman-like conduct penalties, but more important for Happy Valley was the loss of Whaley, who was booted out of the game by the officials.
Elizabethton, needing to capitalize on the shock to the Warriors with the loss of Whaley, appeared ready to score after Bailey took a reception to the 28-yard line of HV before being hit with an unsportsman-like conduct penalty to push the Cyclones back to the 44.
The Cyclones ended up having to punt to the Warriors and pinned Happy Valley back to its own 20. Needing someone to step up, the Warriors turned to Michael Hollifield, who didn't miss a beat as the bruising back teamed with Caldwell to move HV steadily down the field.
Hollifield picked up 29 yards on the drive and Caldwell 25 to put the Warriors into field goal range. Shatley's attempt was no good and the Cyclones had one last shot at taking the win from its own 20-yard line.
Bailey brought the huge crowd to its feet with a blistering run up the middle, taking the ball to midfield before being stopped with 43 seconds left to play. Two incomplete passes from Jeffers and a reverse by Turley left the ball at the EHS 49 with one last play left.
Jeffers pass to Levi Hooten was off its mark as time expired and the Warrior players, coaches and fans celebrated the huge victory at midfield.
"Having the opportunity charged me up because I knew we had to work hard to win," said Hollifield. "I think this will help us earn respect from other teams because we beat a good team like Elizabethton."
Said Jenkins: "The guy (Hollifield) came in and ran hard for Happy Valley. I compare this game to a bunch of good old country boys being in a fistfight, it was extremely hard-fought. We didn't play well and we didn't coach well because our practices haven't been that good this week. We just didn't have a good effort."
The road for the Cyclones will not be any easier as they must get ready for conference action next week against Sullivan South at home, while Happy Valley will face off against Gatlinburg-Pittman without Whaley, who must sit after being ejected.
Happy Valley remains perfect at 4-0 while the Cyclones dropped to 1-2 on the young season.