Warriors hang on to beat Rebels
Fourth and goal at the four-yard line with less than a minute to go, it came down to one dramatic play.
South Greene receiver Tyler Sauceman leaped in the air against Happy Valley's Greg Swafford, making a spectacular catch.
He landed six inches out of bounds.
As a result, Happy Valley held off South Greene for a 20-14 homecoming night victory on Friday.
"If he would have jumped straight instead of jumping out, he would have been in (the end zone)," Swafford explained. "He was trying to get to that ball, but he couldn't get his feet back in. It was really close."
Swafford had seen enough of No. 2's antics. Sauceman had burned the HV cornerback with seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown prior to the final play.
"He's a great receiver, tall and lanky," said Swafford. "He can really go up for the ball. I tried to cover him, but you have to hope the quarterback makes a bad throw. It's about the only way you can guard a player like him."
The fourth-down play was merely the final highlight in a fierce battle for second place in the Watauga Conference and homefield advantage in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
South Greene had failed to capitalize on two first quarter turnovers by the Warriors.
In the second quarter, Happy Valley's offense opened up. Ryan Garland started an 81-yard drive with runs of 16 and 13 yards, followed by an 11-yard push up the middle by Will Lowe.
With the ball resting in Rebel territory, quarterback Todd Caldwell made a 33-yard scamper down to the SG three. That paved the way for the game's first score, a 3-yard touchdown run by Garland.
Assessed with a celebration penalty, Casey Shatley nailed a 34-yard extra-point for a 7-0 Warrior lead.
HV's first half ground attack was simple. Run through holes opened by linemen Jordy Harrison and Daniel Guinn.
"Guinn and I worked so hard on communication," said Harrison. "Todd did a great job audibling. I can't tell you how much of a team effort this was. Everybody from the receivers to the backs to the linemen, we fought.
"That was one of the biggest games of my life. I'm glad to be a Warrior tonight."
After stopping the Rebs on the next drive, big plays put Happy Valley on the scoreboard again.
Caldwell connected on passes of 24 yards to Drew Davis and 19 yards to Swafford, before lofting a 13-yard touchdown to Swafford with eight seconds left in the half.
"I just knew we had to get something going," said Caldwell. "We had a seven-nothing lead and we had to get it up. They later came back and tied it up on us."
South Greene regained momentum after recovering an onside kick to start the second half.
Ryan Ward took a 15-yard swing pass from quarterback Bruce Wright only two minutes later for a first Rebel touchdown.
South Greene tied the game early in the fourth quarter with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wright to Sauceman.
With the game deadlocked at 14-apiece, Caldwell directed the winning drive. He stepped up in the pocket on a key third down, hitting Swafford for a 30-yard completion.
Later faced with fourth and seven, Caldwell hit Davis on a nine-yard play keeping the drive alive. Michael Hollifield put Happy Valley on top at the 5:23 mark with a 10-yard touchdown blast.
"All of that credit has to go to (assistant coach) Andy Curtis," said Caldwell. "He has helped me so much on my motion, seeing the pocket and where to step up. He's hard on me, but I love it.
"On the third and fourth down plays, they gave me the lanes. I stepped up in the pocket and hit the receivers. Drew and Greg ran great routes and made great cuts where the defenders were nowhere near them."
The door was left open when Shatley's extra-point attempt hit the goalpost crossbar and bounced no good.
Down by six, it was time for one final Rebel rally. Three mid-range passes by Wright gave South Greene the ball at the Warrior five.
Wright tried a quarterback keeper on first down, but was stood up by Davis at the four-yard line. Two failed pass attempts and a determined Warrior defense forced the final incompletion.
"We weren't going to let them in right there," said Harrison. "I looked at everybody, Cane (Cannon) looked at everybody and nobody was giving up."
The front eight of Harrison, Cannon, Lowe, Chris Bennett, Vince Hodge, John Calandros, Michael Higgins and Logan Birchfield had been big factors all night holding the Rebel running game to 117 yards.
Half of those yards were by Wright tucking the ball in passing situations.
"They weren't going to run it on us," said HV head coach Stan Ogg. "Our defensive coach (Greg) Hyder did a great job. We were determined to stop them between the tackles. Even when they spread us out and we had five in the box, we still didn't give up too much yardage."
The Rebel passing game was harder to stop with Wright making 16-of-28 throws for 246 yards.
"They played a pretty good game," said Ricker about his dynamic passing duo. "They just couldn't make the play at the end when we had to have it. It was just a little bit long.
"You have to give it to Happy Valley. They came out early and got away from us. We fought back, but we just couldn't get it done. It was a great ballgame. Both coaching staffs did a good job."
Happy Valley's offense featured Hollifield piling up 99 yards on 15 carries and Lowe gaining 73 yards on 18 rushes.
Caldwell was 5-of-11 passing for 92 yards, while Swafford led the receiving category with 59 yards.
Overall, South Greene held advantages in total offense 363 yards to 332 yards and first downs (17-14).
"These kids played tough," said Ogg. "They made some plays because they are so athletic. Todd directed our offense so well. The offensive coaches did a great job and the players stepped up and made the plays when we needed to."
A downside to the win came when Garland, the team's leading rusher, suffered a broken collarbone in a third quarter collision.
The Warriors will be off next week before hosting Chuckey-Doak in a Senior Night regular season finale on Thursday, October 28. South Greene returns to action Friday against county foe West Greene.
Note: Amber Ferrell was crowned the 2005 Happy Valley Homecoming Queen during halftime festivities.
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