HV faces daunting task at G-Pittman

star staff

  While the majority of Northeast Tennessee prep football teams moved their games up to Thursday, Happy Valley and Gatlinburg-Pittman will try to brave the elements from Hurricane Ivan Friday night.
  Expecting huge amounts of rainfall, there have been special preparations to get ready for the contest scheduled at Gatlinburg's Hammonds Field.
  "We've been doing all the wet ball stuff," said Happy Valley head coach Stan Ogg. "We made sure we've been handling, throwing, punting, kicking, catching wet balls. We don't want to go from nice 80 degree weather to a monsoon unprepared."
  Both teams come into the game with 2-1 records, but in vastly different moods. The Warriors were left reeling after losing 23-zip to Elizabethton, a worst regular season loss in two years. Meanwhile, Pittman walloped neighboring Pigeon Forge 28-6 in their last on-field action.
  "On Monday we had to get their chins up," said Ogg. "The players and coaches pride was bruised last week. We got outplayed, but the fact is that one is over."
  Looking at the big picture, those games were non-conference affairs. This game is for early supremacy in the Region 1-2A standings.
  "The conference championship is up for grabs," said Ogg. "The road goes through them and our kids know it."
  A tough road is promised as the Warriors try to win against Gatlinburg-Pittman for the first time in a dozen years.
  Pittman has won the last two encounters by 21 points each, 28-7 in 2003 and 35-14 the last time the game was played at Gatlinburg.
  Ogg knows the Highlanders have a program that truly doesn't rebuild, but instead reloads.
  "Two years ago, we gave up a ton of yards in the first half against them," said Ogg. "Their back had 156 rushing yards and he felt like ran over us. Week ten against Seymour, he had 250 yards. In the second round of the playoffs, he had 260.
  "We thought that maybe we didn't do such a bad job. Last year they outquicked us to the punch. They had 16 starters graduate, but had juniors just as good waiting in the wings."
  The Warrior offense will try to get back on track after posting just 21 rushing yards last week against the Cyclones.
  G-P is not exactly the best place to establish the run. Last year the 'Landers held HV's ground game to a season-low 64 yard output. A week ago, Pigeon Forge only mustered 19 rushing yards against the stingy G-P defense.
  A bonus this week for the Warriors will be the return of tailback Michael Hollifield to the lineup. Missing since early in game two against Unicoi County, the bruising back will be needed to penetrate the G-P line.
  Ryan Garland used for the majority of last week's rushes will still see plenty of playing time as will fullback Will Lowe.
  The first line of fire will come from the Warriors up front. Big Jordy Harrison wants to show Pittman he is the dominant lineman in Watauga Conference.
  That means facing a player who outsizes him. Josh Cornett is 6-6, 360 pounds and fired up, coming off a nine-tackle game last week against Pigeon Forge.
  "He's just big," said Ogg. "He looks like he's 400 pounds and he plays both ways. He has a way of getting to the ball."
  Cane Cannon, Michael Higgins and Daniel Guinn after good individual games against Elizabethton, would like nothing better than the Warrior team to find a winning formula against the 'Landers.
  On the other side of the ball, they will be asked to hold off a variety of talented G-P defenders.
  Defensive end Richard Carr had six tackles last week. Tim Farmer, Todd Sherman and Jarrod Franklin all had big games versus Pigeon Forge, as did Devin Smith, a top linebacker.
  "Defensively is where they make their hay," said Ogg. "Their linebackers go to the ball in a hurry. They are in a bad mood once they get there."
  Smith is also the Highlanders' top runner, gaining 103 yards in last week's victory. Another 100-yard rusher for G-P is Dusty Dodgen, who ripped up Chuckey-Doak earlier in the season.
  "They want those 13 to 14 play drives," said Ogg. "They run off tackle, off tackle, trap, sweep and then throw the occasional slant. From film, they're a typical Gatlinburg-Pittman bunch."
  Happy Valley will try to get back to what they do best with the big play. In wins over West Greene and North Greene, the Warriors had multiple plays of 20-plus yards.
  With top receiver Drew Davis losing a cast he was wearing last week plus threats Chris Rutledge and Greg Swafford getting back to top form, the Warriors may have the chance to break some long pass plays from quarterback Todd Caldwell.
  Whether they can break enough of those plays is a question to be answered Friday night. Kickoff is still scheduled for 7:30 p.m.