Warriors to play for a share of title

By Jeff Birchfield

   It's simple enough for the Happy Valley Warriors. Win at South Greene Thursday night and they will tie for the Watauga Conference championship. Lose and they finish third in the conference.
   "If we can find a way to win, it puts us in a tie," explained Warrior head football coach Stan Ogg. "All we can do is share it since we lost a game to Hampton early. But, it's still something that we would like to have."
   The Rebels have a more selfish attitude when it comes to sharing a piece of the championship pie. "It's a big time everytime Happy Valley and South Greene play," said Rebel coach Larry Ricker. "But, this game has more incentive than most of them.
   "Any time we play Happy Valley we give our players a background of the tradition of what this rivalry has been. It's a good old-fashioned, hard-nosed rivalry, where over the years both teams usually have a lot to play for."
   Team honors are not all that's on the line, as the conference passing title will be up for grabs between the league's two leading quarterbacks, South Greene's Adam Hansel and Lamar Rollins of Happy Valley.
   While both coaches are fully aware of what the two signal callers can do with their arms, it is their ability to scramble out of the pocket that gives the most concerns.
   "That's who you've got to stop," said Ogg about Hansel. "It starts with the quarterback. He's an excellent runner. He has good feet, so he makes people miss a lot of tackles. He can also burn you with the quick strike throwing it out there to number one (Wes Parkins)."
   Coach Ricker will freely admit Hansel is one of the cornerstones of his team. "Adam has been a good quarterback, both running and throwing" admitted the South Greene head coach. "He and Parkins have been a good duo. Wes has been a great receiver from day one. Phillip Waddell caught a few passes the last game. We also need to get the tight end more in the offense."
   Happy Valley, who started out the season as a team that relied almost solely on the run, has also become adept with the passing game. "We've got quite a few good receivers," commented Ogg. "It's not just throwing. We obviously don't throw it all that much. Although, we're throwing it more right now.
   "These kids do a great job blocking downfield, running our offense. It's really a priority for us since we run so much. When we do throw it we want them to run good routes. We try to throw where there aren't defenders."
   The intent of spreading the ball around to players like Chris Campbell, Andy Hilton, Jack Everhart and Andy Bean is to make it harder for teams to defend the HV offense. "We've tried to go that route," remarked Ogg. "We feel like we are protecting better now. We have a quarterback that has a good arm. People were getting eight people on the line of scrimmage. Now, we've got them to back off a little bit."
   South Greene does much of the same with their passing attack, opening things up for the rushing game. Unlike last season when the Rebels lived by a smashmouth attack, their running utilizes sweeps and pitches to compliment the straight-ahead attack.
   "I think we use a little more variety than last year," said Ricker. "We don't try to run over them as much. We have a decent line up front, but it's hard to run straight over people, especially a team like Happy Valley.
   "They play really hard on defense. They impress me with their pressure defense, although I will say our defense has gotten better over the year."
   When they do try to crack through the Warrior defensive line, the job will often fall to Ricker's own son Neal, a powerful running back. "Neal has had a great year," said his father. "I don't brag on him a lot as people accuse me of being prejudiced, but I can say that I'm awful proud of him.
   "He's one of our key players along with Hansel, Parkins and Waddell, who had the game of his life versus Crockett when he made 10 tackles and scored a touchdown. Brian Holt, our center, is our best blocker. We built our team around those five seniors."
   Happy Valley counters with several senior leaders of their own including fullback Stephen Thompson, tight end Jesse Bowers, and linebackers Jason Tittle and Forrest Holt. Underclassmen like tailback Cody Cannon, Daniel Dover, Josh Smith and Kenneth Campbell will also have to continue to play at their usual high level for the Warriors.
   While Happy Valley can grab a share of the conference title with a win, they have to have outside help to move up in the upcoming TSSAA playoffs. If Hampton beats Chuckey-Doak, the Warriors will be guaranteed a third place finish in the Region thus having to play their first postseason game on the road.
   However, if the Bulldogs should falter, then HV has a shot of not only tying for the conference crown, but would grab the number one seed for Region 1-2A.
   That will all play out tommorrow night as the Happy Valley Warriors and South Greene Rebels clash at 7:30 p.m. atop Rebel Hill.