Junior Warriors breeze past Rangers

By Marvin Birchfield

   After having a big letdown at Hampton last week, the Happy Valley Jr. Warriors were looking to reestablish themselves as the conference powerhouse against Unaka.
   The Warriors sent the message loud and clear on Tuesday night, as they took their frustration out on the Rangers in a 50-6 Little Watauga Conference final.
   "I hope this was a wake-up call from last week," said Happy Valley coach Alex Payne. "We certainly left it up to the eighth-graders to motivate themselves, and this is the best they have played all year."
   Unaka gave Happy Valley a tough battle a couple of weeks prior, losing by the score of 22-6, but its chances of making a close game this time were denied by Happy Valley on both sides of the ball.
   The Rangers did grab the early lead on the opening kickoff when Jeff Wilson ran the ball back 69 yards for a touchdown.
   "That play lifted our spirits, but defensively we had so many letdowns, and we did not tackle well at all," said Unaka coach Matt Wilson.
   It looked as if Unaka was possibly ready to hand the Warriors their second straight defeat, but Happy Valley responded quickly in a big way.
   The first play from scrimmage for the Warriors resulted in a 54-yard touchdown run, with Francisco Borquez outrunning the defense on a sweep to the left.
   The next time the Warriors touched the ball, it was the same tailback with the same result, just on the opposite side of the field.
   This time Borquez ran the sweep to the right, plus made a great cutback across field to score from 48 yards away.
   "Our line definitely played well, but Francisco Borquez ran and cut better tonight than he has all year," said Payne.
   Happy Valley capitalized off a fumble exchange from Unaka, as Paul Clark made the recovery at the Ranger 38-yard line.
   Two plays later, Logan Birchfield refused to go down and busted his way out of the pile to ramble off a 24-yard touchdown run.
   The two-point conversion was added on a pass from Daniel Shankle and a nice one-handed grab from Borquez, making it 24-6 in favor of the Warriors.
   Another fumble by Unaka led to yet another score for Happy Valley, when Caleb Johnson pounced on the ball for one of his two fumble recoveries on the night.
   "We didn't show up to play, and after our first game we thought we could play with them and keep it close, but you could tell they were fired up," said Coach Wilson.
   A 27-yard gain on a pass from Jordan Lewis to Brandon Whitehead set up a three yard run from Chuck Rollins up the middle for the score.
   The Rangers offense was ineffective, as the defense of the Warriors kept the tailback Wilson in check all game long.
   Unaka had a total of 20 yards on the ground and 10 yards through the air, which made it tough for the Rangers to get any kind of rhythm against the Warrior front-line.
   Happy Valley struck again right before half as Daniel Shankle picked off a pass from Michael Carpenter and returned it 55 yards for the score, making it a 38-6 rout at halftime.
   "I just hope we can stay on even-keel right now and not be up and down," said Payne.
   The Warriors continued their dominance in the second-half, taking the opening kickoff and driving down the field.
   A mistake on a pitch play to Birchfield saved the Rangers from surrendering another touchdown, as Michael Westberry came up with the recovery off the fumble.
   On the Warriors' next series, they scored on the first play from scrimmage when Anthony Hollifield made the pitch-out to Lewis for a 54-yard touchdown run.
   Happy Valley hit the mid-century mark in the final period. Lewis ran a 19-yard sweep to the right, posting a 50-point offensive onslaught.
   "I was particularly proud of all of our seventh-graders who got in there and hustled, and those who played hard that hadn't been starting for us," said Payne.