Warriors top Rebs to gain home field

By Jeff Birchfield
GREENEVILLE -- Home Sweet Home.
For the second consecutive year, Happy Valley beat South Greene in a Watauga Conference game that secured homefield advantage in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
After going scoreless in the first quarter, the Warriors scored 28 unanswered points en route to a 35-14 win.
"It was 0-0 at the end of the first and we weren't doing much," said HV head coach Stan Ogg, whose team scored 35 points for a third straight week. "The second quarter we did well. We blocked some people, ran hard, had some big plays and we defended pretty well."
The second quarter started with a three and out Rebel possession. After returning a punt to midfield, HV quarterback Todd Caldwell made a two-yard run, that set up tailback Tim Whaley running the ball six times for 48 yards. Whaley's last scamper was a 6-yarder to the end zone for the game's first touchdown.
The senior tailback was once again the top offensive threat for the Warriors totaling 111 yards on 23 carries. However, his impact may have been most felt on the defensive side of the ball where he made eight tackles including three sacks on SG quarterback Ryan Ward from the linebacker spot.
"We had been working against that option all week," said Whaley. "I saw the blocks pretty well and Cane (Cannon) squeezed it, so I could get to the quarterback. We saw on the films that the quarterback doesn't pitch it that often. He usually keeps it and that gave me a chance to make plays."
Whaley's biggest single play came in a third role as punter. At midfield late in the second quarter, he booted a 49-yarder that pinned the Rebels back on their own 1-yard line. The bad field position forced South Greene to give the ball back in time for the Warriors to score a second touchdown on a 29-yard halfback pass from Whaley to Greg Swafford.
"That kick was really big, because we only had to use one time out," said Ogg. "Our defense played super down there. We got the punt back and the ball inside the 30. Then we scored on the next play. We tell the kids the kicking game changes field and it wins and loses football games."
Whaley added, "That was a good snap. Todd and Daniel Dover have both been snapping the ball to me real good. I just focused on kicking and I have faith in my team that the line will take care of the blocking. I've been working a little more on the punting lately and it's been working out for me."
In the second half, it looked like a blowout was in order. Whaley had his second 6-yard td run on the opening drive of the third quarter. Caldwell and Swafford then hooked up the next Warrior possession on three passes for 51 yards. Michael Hollifield plowed ahead with runs of 3 yards and 1 yard to cap off the drive and a 28-0 HV lead.
For the second straight week, Swafford had a monster game. He led all Warrior receivers making five catches for 88 yards.
"Todd is putting the ball to me real well and the coaches are getting in the plays," said Swafford. "That little slant we've been doing over the middle, we've done the past two games and it's worked real well. We'll keep running it until teams are picking up on it, then we'll have to find something else to do."
After a slow start, quarterback Caldwell came on strong. He completed his last six passes of a night where he connected on 7-of-12 for 134 yards.
Another player with a good streak going is kicker Casey Shatley. For the second week in a row, No. 13 was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra-point attempts.
"I just focus on kicking," said Shatley. "That's all that I do. It's a series - you have to have a good snap, hold and kick and a good team blocking."
South Greene finally came to life on a 9-play, 62-yard drive in the third quarter, that ended when Ward hit Tyler Sauceman on an 18-yard scoring toss. After recovering an onside kick, the Rebels took the ball downfield another 48 yards. That drive culminated with the Ward-Sauceman combo scoring again on a 7-yard pass play. Going into the final quarter, it was now a two-score game with Happy Valley leading 28-14.
South Greene nearly recovered a third onside kick, after which the HV offense responded. Caldwell threw three strikes, the last one a 23-yarder to Drew Davis that set up a Whaley 2-yard touchdown run.
"The offense stepped up after their scores," said Ogg. "I told the coaches we have to be able to take care of an onside kick. We almost lost that third one, but from there, we had three big completions. That drive was super, as was the one at the start of the second half. That put us over the top tonight."
South Greene coach Larry Ricker couldn't fault the effort of his team. They played without the services of starting quarterback Bruce Wright who was slowed by HV lineman Jordy Harrison on the game's opening drive and then knocked out of the game by linebacker Will Lowe.
"Our quarterback sustained a concussion in the first series," explained Ricker. "Our backup (Ward) hasn't played quarterback this year, but I thought he came in and did a pretty good job. You have to give Happy Valley credit, they kept coming. We lost to a good ball club.
"I thought our kids played hard. We're down in numbers this year, but the kids playing are trying hard."
The Warriors now get a well-deserved week of rest before going to Chuckey-Doak the last game of the regular season on Thursday, Oct. 30. South Greene, now standing 1-3, 4-4, will clash with West Greene this coming week before hosting Hampton in a game with probable playoff implications.