Error-prone Warriors lose to Rockwood

By Jeff Birchfield

   ROCKWOOD -- The final scoreboard read Rockwood 30, Happy Valley 14. It might as well read 8-0, because that was the deciding number at Rockwood's home field called, Tiger Den. Eight to zero was the amount of times the Warriors (4-3) fumbled compared to the Tigers (3-4) on Friday night.
   "That's something we've been trying to do," said Rockwood coach John Webb about his team not fumbling. "We accomplished it tonight. It was one of the few times this year, we've been able to hold on to the football.
   "I know Coach Ogg doesn't want his team to do that. They fumbled eight times and gave his four. It gave us good field position at times and we were able to take advantage of their mistakes."
   Added disappointed HV head coach Stan Ogg, "You're not going to beat a team when you put it on the ground that many times. Turnovers are a part of it, but, you look they get 16 defensive points also."
   When they did control the pigskin, the Warriors proved the brand of football played in Northeast Tennessee is just as good as that west of Knoxville. Happy Valley racked up 101 more yards in offensive production than the Tigers on Rockwood's Homecoming night.
   Leading the charge was quarterback Lamar Rollins, who ran the ball 11 times for 76 yards and connected on 6-of-10 passes for another 125 yards.
   His favorite target was Chris Campbell, who reeled in 2 passes for 83 yards and one touchdown. Andy Bean, Andy Hilton, Jack Everhardt and Jesse Bowers also made catches for the Warrior offense.
   Happy Valley looked take control early as their defense stopped Rockwood on the opening drive. The Warrior offense then marched 55 yards downfield, when the first turning point of the contest occured.
   After fullback Jason Tittle's forward progress was stopped at the Tiger 14-yard line, Rockwood's Preston Gallaher stripped away the ball and raced 86 yards the other way for the game's first touchdown.
   HV responded immediately by Rollins hooking up with Campbell on a 72-yard pass play to tie the game 17 seconds later. Tim Whaley's extra-point gave Happy Valley a brief 7-6 lead.
   "I just concentrated on it," said Campbell about his TD reception. "I told coach the defensive back was coming running in, cheating on me and I thought we could go long on him. We tried it and made a big play on it. Thank the line for blocking and having Lamar back there long enough to make the pass."
   Holding the advantage, the Warriors made a costly mistake on the next possession. A third-and-13 would have been 4th and 13 after an incompleted pass by Phillip Isham, but a roughing the passer penalty gave Rockwood the ball at HV's 19-yard line. Josh Weatherly's 7-yard touchdown run and Josh Clark's run on the two-point conversion put the Tigers back on top 14-7.
   Happy Valley was determined not to let the game slip away that easily, scoring on a 8-play, 49-yard drive capped off by Cody Cannon's 5-yard run with 2:19 left in the second quarter. Whaley's PAT kick sent the teams knotted at 14-apiece at the half.
   In the third quarter, the Warriors threatened to take back the lead as Campbell had an impressive 21-yard catch and run, where he lowered his shoulder and ran over a Tiger defender. That play, which put HV in Rockwood territory, was negated for a holding call. After the Maroon and White offense stalled, neither team put any points on the board in the third quarter.
   "It was just a thing that happened," said Campbell about the play being called back. "It will be alright. We'll go back to practice Monday and work on blocking again and not holding or clipping. We showed them we were physical and we could play along with them.
   "We didn't like the way they (some of the Rockwood area media) downed us. They said that we hadn't played anybody, but we had played some teams as good as they did."
   Rockwood threatened to score early in the fourth after benefitting from a HV fumble on the 29-yard line. As the Tigers crept closer to the goal line, it was time for the Warrior defense to make a stand. The middle of the line led by Matt Walsh, kept the Tigers out of the end zone on a fourth down play from the two-yard line that kept the game deadlocked.
   "It was a lot of integrity on defense that we held up," stated Walsh. "We're real strong when we're in positions where we have to stop them. It seems like we do better under pressure a lot of times. Other times, we come up just a little short."
   The momentum swing was short-lived. On the first offensive play from scrimmage, HV fumbled the ball again. Although they recovered, the luck would run out three plays later when the Rockwood special teams charged through and blocked Whaley's punt out of the end zone to give the Tigers a 16-14 lead.
   On the play following the safety, Whaley boomed a beautiful 51-yard punt. However, Gallaher was waiting. He caught the ball on the fly, broke a couple of tackles and 69 yards later hit paydirt, giving Rockwood a 23-14 lead with 7:47 left.
   Back with possession, the Warriors again had trouble hanging onto the football with Rockwood recovering for a fourth time. After neither team got anything going on consecutive possessions, Rockwood took over back on the HV 28 with 3:51 left.
   "Offensively, we didn't do well in the second half," said Ogg, "But, the first half, we were very productive. We had pretty good protection from the line other than the last little bit. There was a little desperation, but that's going to happen. We should have had more than 14 points at halftime, but we didn't. So, we had to come back and try to score in the second half."
   Rockwood punched in a meaningless score when Gallaher ran in a play from two-yards out at the 1:54 mark of the fourth quarter for the final outcome. "You sometimes don't notice him doing a whole lot," said Webb about Gallaher. "Tonight, he runs the fumble in for the touchdown and breaks the kickoff back in for a touchdown. He had a couple of good runs offensively and a couple of big saves defensively.
   "At the end, I wasn't trying to run the score up. We were trying to get out of here with a win. But, we're there (close to the end zone) and I'm not going to try to take a knee in a really tight game. Gallaher wanted the football and we gave it to him. Our kids came in the second half defensively and did what we had to do to win the ballgame."
   For Happy Valley's defense, Walsh and his cohorts could take pride in knowing that end Bryan Boston with 52 receiving yards was the only offensive player who broke the 50-yard barrier either rushing or receiving against them.
   "I thought we did really good on defense," said the senior defensive tackle. "We had a couple of breakdowns, but overall we didn't play bad. It hurts losing like any other game. The papers here were saying that Region 1 wasn't nothing. We came down here and showed them that Region 1 plays some football."
   Next up for Rockwood will be a key Region 2 battle with archrival Harriman. For Happy Valley, this coming Friday means tackling Class 3-A powerhouse Gatlinburg-Pittman at home.