JV Warriors squeeze past Unicoi

By Marvin Birchfield

   It was the classic duel of the Warriors against the Blue Devils in JV football, as Happy Valley squeaked by in a 26-23 final over Unicoi County on Warrior Hill on Monday.
   The game saw many a twist of momentum shifts throughout, but the Warriors were able to prevail in the end.
   "The kids was wanting to win the last game and played hard, and the line took on the challenge in the second-half, and that's what won the ball game," said Happy Valley JV coach Larry Abel.
   Happy Valley got on top in the early going, after making a recovery off a fumble from Aaron Saylor in the Blue Devils first possession of offense.
   A 26 yard run off a sweep to the left from Michael Hollifield, set up a one yard quarterback sneak from Ryan Garland.
   Garland ran the two-point conversion to give Happy Valley an 8-0 lead with under two-minutes into the ball game.
   The Warriors found themselves pinned inside their own ten yard-line, after a great punt from Emmanuel Mendoza rolled down to the four.
   Happy Valley went three and out on offense forcing them to punt deep in their own territory.
   A high-snap resulted in Garland taking a knee in the end-zone, rather than taking a chance on trying to punt and a possible touchdown being scored.
   Unicoi Co. drove the ball the field, after Dustin Stephenson had a 26 yard run with Garland making the saving tackle.
   "We missed a few assignments, but that's what these games are for to learn and get better," said Abel.
   Cody Scott pounded through the line three plays later to tie the contest on a 3 yard run.
   The Blue Devils struck again within a minute, when Dusty Tolley picked-off a pass from Todd Caldwell, that went 50 yards on the interception return to give Unicoi Co. their first lead.
   Happy Valley came back to strike before the end of the half, when Garland rambled for 33 yards on the ground.
   This set-up a 37 yard pass play from Garland to Drew Davis down the right-side, beating Saylor on the defense.
   It pulled the Warriors back to within one at half-time, as they trailed 15-14 at the break.
   The Warriors scored on their opening drive of the second-half to reassume the lead.
   An 11 play 60 yard drive ended with Garland running a 24 yard sweep to the right-side to give Happy Valley a 20-15 advantage.
   "We took a 15-14 lead into the half and we're really pumped, but they came back out and pulled a few tricks out of the hat and we couldn't stop it," said Unicoi County JV coach Nick Lingerfelt.
   A big hit from Chris Dove on Corey Schwenke in the back-field stifled the Blue Devil offense after making one first down on their next series.
   Happy Valley got the ball back and scored once again, when two big catches coming from Derek Hamm resulted in an 11 yard pass play from Caldwell.
   The catch by Hamm across the middle put the Warriors ahead by the score of 26-15 with 8:31 left in regulation.
   Unicoi Co. wasn't exactly about to lay down just yet, as they came back with a strike of their own, when Saylor threw the half-back pass to Reuben Hyder, which went for 42 yards down to the Warriors three yard-line.
   Thomas Evely took it in from there on the quarterback sneak with Scott adding the two-point run to close the contest to within three with under five minutes to go.
   "Football is a game of momentum, and we got the shift there but couldn't quite capitalize off of it," said Lingerfelt.
   The Blue Devils got a couple of more cracks at it on offense, but on the next to last series Evely was intercepted by Caldwell, when he tried to connect with Hyder on the fly route.
   "We have a few problems with young kids, but this is JV and we just got to get in the weight room and get better," said Lingerfelt.
   Happy Valley denied Unicoi Co. from making a first down on the Blue Devils last possession to escape with a victory in a tough fought battle.
   "All the kids played hard today, and we got to play all of them and get some of the young ones experience," said Abel.