Warriors face stiff test at home

By Jeff Birchfield

   Three up, three down.
   Unicoi County, West Greene and Johnson County all went to Warrior Hill earlier this season looking to win against Happy Valley (4-3). All three fell by double-digit margins.
   Powerhouse Gatlinburg-Pittman (5-2) is the next team in line to take the challenge. The Class 3-A Highlanders' strategy is simple, says HV head coach Stan Ogg. "It's not like Rockwood that we played last week who tried to spread you out," remarked the Warrior coach. "They line up man on man and run right over you.
   "They don't throw the ball a lot, but they don't need to. They give the ball to No. 24 (Jason Trentham) seventy-five percent of the time and he follows the fullback out of the power-I."
   Trentham is a 5-11, 175-pound tailback who combines speed and strength to punish opposing defenses. He carried the ball 31 times for 141 tough yards in a 28-14 win over Rutledge. In the Landers' last two games, Trentham has averaged over 116 yards on the ground.
   "We're the same old G-P," said Highlander head coach Benny Hammonds. "We run the ball more effective than we pass the ball. Jason Trentham is the boy who carries the load. He's a tough boy. But, we have a little depth.
   "We have Ben Hess (the backup tailback who has shown a propensity for getting in the end zone). Our fullback Warren Scully and h-back Roscoe Holt both have a little experience."
   Both teams rely heavily on the running game, but the Warriors have recently shown promise throwing the football. Andy Bean, Jesse Bowers and Jack Everhardt all made tough catches for the Warriors in the last game against Rockwood, while converted basketball player Chris Campbell has given quarterback Lamar Rollins an explosive target on the outside.
   Pittman's quarterback Chad Mitchell is someone, whose role has been mainly to hand the ball off, but Hammonds admits Mitchell has some running skills that haven't been fully utilized.
   On the other side of the ball, it is the defense that is the key to both teams. Kenneth Campbell, Matt Walsh, Forrest Holt, Cody Cannon, Daniel Dover and John Hughes have formed the center of a HV frontline that has been hard for other teams to penetrate.
   That has also been the strength of the 2001 Highlanders. "Our defense has been carrying the weight," Hammonds stated. "They're an aggressive line. Our defensive tackles (Trevor Caylor and Stephen Messer, both who are listed at 5-10, 240 pounds) and ends are playing good football.
   "The linebackers and secondary are adequate. Our middle linebacker, Nathan Ogle at 6-1, 210 pounds is our leading tackler. I don't know if we can shut them (Happy Valley) down or not. They move the ball around to a lot of people. Our defense knows they have their hands full."
   The Warriors also know their challenge is great, but they won't be fazed by just showing up and seeing G-P. However, Happy Valley repeat the mistakes they did last Friday in a 30-14 loss at Rockwood. "We feel we have a chance to win, no matter who we have on the schedule," said coach Ogg. "I think last week at times we played well enough to win, but I think each player will tell you we didn't play well enough in a sustained period of time.
   "We went times where we missed blocks, we dropped the ball, we laid it on the ground, we missed tackles. At other times, we had six and eight people to the ball and we moved the ball. We read the defense right and got up field.
   "The mistakes are all correctable. There were mental mistakes in every phase of the game. The mistakes put our defense in a bad situation. We have to play for 48 minutes, not for 30 minutes."
   Importance could also be placed on the kicking game. Pittman features kicker Ben Jones, who recovered from knee surgery the first half of the season, to excel on kickoffs and extra points. Happy Valley's answers with Tim Whaley, a straight kicker and a booming punter.
   Hess gives the Highlanders, whose only losses have come to Sweetwater and defending Class 1-A state champion, Christ Presbyterian Academy, a threat to score every time he returns the ball.
   Tonight at 7:30 p.m. will be when Happy Valley tries to keep that perfect home record intact against the visitors from Tennessee's number one resort area.