Pittman gets by Warriors in 24-21 thriller

By Jeff Birchfield

   A recent movie title summarizes Friday night's hard-fought football game atop Warrior Hill. Gatlinburg-Pittman's 24-21 comeback win over Happy Valley (4-4) was "As good as it gets."
   Led by tailback Jason Trentham, who rushed for 186 yards on 30 carries, the Highlanders (6-2) became the first visiting team to win on the Warriors' home field during the 2001 gridiron season.
   "You have to give a lot of credit to Happy Valley," said G-P head coach Benny Hammonds. "They have a good little football team. Our defense gave up two passes for touchdowns, but they executed and made it work.
   "We shut No. 1 (Lamar Rollins) down some of the night, because he sures puts a lot of stats in the stats book. We played well enough to put more points on the board than what they had."
   For the Warriors, head coach Stan Ogg could find little fault in the attempt his team gave.
   "It was a fantastic effort all the way down the line," said Ogg. "The coaches prepared them this week and we played extremely hard. We eliminated mistakes and played with a lot of heart and intensity.
   "We had a lot of good efforts out of different people at different times. That is a good football team out there (G-P) in those white jerseys."
   Happy Valley looked to be handicapped before the game began with starting linebackers Andy Hilton and Cody Cannon on the sidelines nursing injuries and quarterback Rollins battling the flu. But, up stepped a sophomore dynamo named Tim Whaley.
   Whaley led the Warriors with 60 rushing yards, while also garnering 22 receiving yards and 68 return yards for a grand total of 150 total yards. "I knew that our starters were out and somebody had to step up," said No. 33. "I tried to just play hard."
   The Class 3-A powerhouse Highlanders looked to establish early dominance after taking the ball down field on the game's opening drive. Kicker Ben Jones booted a field goal from 28 yards out to give G-P a 3-0 lead.
   HV was unphased by this show of strength with Whaley's 15-yard scoring run putting the Warriors on top. Whaley added an extra-point and the Maroon and White held a 7-3 lead after one quarter of play.
   Trentham led a Pittman march back downfield taking the ball near the red zone. At 10:08 of the second quarter, HV linebacker Jason Tittle keyed a momentum swing by stripping Trentham of the pigskin. Warrior lineman John Hughes recovered the loose ball. "It gave us a little momentum," said Tittle about the take-away. "They were only able to break a couple of plays outside on us all night, but that was a couple that hurt us. That's all it takes."
   Tittle also contributed on the offensive end with 42 yards on four rushes including a key 22-yard outburst. "I have to give credit to my line and (receiver) Jack Everhardt on that play," remarked the senior. "That will put me open every time. Jack got that corner out of the way and that's what happened. I give the credit to him."
   Three plays after gaining possession, Rollins hooked up with favorite target Chris Campbell on a 76-yard bomb that gave Happy Valley a 10-point advantage.
   The Highlanders showed why they are held in such high regard on the ensuing drive with Trentham keying a 68-yard drive that he finished off with a 15-yard jaunt to pull the game within 13-10.
   Whaley attempted a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, but Pittman's Ben Hess broke through the line to block the kick. Still, the Tribe clung to a 3-point lead that they would hold through a scoreless third quarter.
   In crunch time, Trentham and his lead fullbacks got stronger. Hess' 2-yard run capped off a 61-yard drive at 10:17 of the fourth quarter to give the 'Landers their first lead since the early minutes of the contest.
   Trentham took center stage again on G-P's next offensive series carrying the ball five of seven plays before turning the scoring honors over to Warren Scully at the 5:32 mark.
   Left for dead, the Warriors rose up on the kickoff when Whaley broke loose for a 68-yard return. "It was a lot (of credit) to the blockers," commented Whaley. "They made a good hole for me and I took it as hard as I could. I knew we had to have a touchdown."
   A touchdown came to fruition three plays later when Rollins found Whaley in the end zone on a 22-yard pass play. Rollins ran in the two-point conversion and HV was only a field goal behind.
   The defense led by middle linebacker Forrest Holt forced the 'Landers to go four and out, setting up one last chance for the Tribe on offense.
   "I'm real proud of our defensive line," Holt remarked. "We played a tough team tonight and showed we could play with anybody. Our team was ready and prepared and we played hard on defense.
   "Our young guys are stepping up. Everybody is practicing hard and getting better and that's what we have to continue to do."
   After three incomplete passes, Rollins found Campbell for an eight-yard gain on fourth down, just two yards shy of the first down markers. All needed by the 'Landers was to take a knee in preserving the victory.
   "Our football team challenged themselves in the second half," said Hammonds. "It was a lot of credit to Jason Trentham running the ball. He's a workhorse, although our blocking was good. He ran it harder and harder until we got the lead. Our cross-buck and counter series worked good for us.
   "We're tickled to death the way our boys bounced back in the second half. We had our backs to the wall."
   Stated Ogg, "They got under our pads a little in the second half. They're a little stronger than us, so they could pick out a side to run to. That's something our coaches were prepared for. But, that's a well-coached football team. They do a good job with their offense.
   "We always try to be optimistic. There are two ways to look at things, the glass half-full or the glass half-empty. We look at it half-full all the time. We believe we can play with any school our size this side of the state. We're not happy by any stretch of the imagination to lose."
   Dominating the passing statisitics, Rollins completed 7-of-15 throws for 136 yards and two touchdowns with Campbell making six grabs for 114 yards. Rollins also carried the ball eleven times for 24 yards as well as posting 35 return yards.
   The Highlander win was marred by a knee injury to starting quarterback Chad Mitchell that threatens to end his senior season.
   Next up for the Happy Valley Warriors is Friday's senior night at home when they welcome the challenge of former conference rival North Greene.