Rockwood routs HV

By Jeff Birchfield

   A nightmare end to a dream season.
   Rockwood routed Happy Valley 35-7 in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs, thus ending HV's quest for a ten win season atop Warrior Hill.
   "Happy Valley has an outstanding football team," said Tiger head coach John Webb. "I would have never dreamed it would have been like this. We played extremely well. We always seem to play well when we come up here."
   Early in the contest, a trio of plays turned what was expected to be a tight struggle into a convincing Tiger victory. Tied at 0-0 after stopping Rockwood on the game's opening possession, the Warriors took the ball to the Tiger 25 yard line. Facing fourth and one, Rockwood's Joseph Bowman made a key defensive stop of HV tailback Tim Whaley to end the drive.
   After retaking possession, the Tigers' own offensive series stalled at midfield. Webb reached in his bag of tricks and called a fake punt run by Bryson Pryor that went for 49 yards. One play later, Pryor bowled in from a yard out for the game's first touchdown.
   "Whatever we had tonight, we needed to use it," said Webb about the gutsy call. "We didn't have anything to lose. The kids bank on me to do that type of thing. They executed it and it worked.
   "I saw on film that we would have an opportunity to run it. Their two return men didn't even realize he (Pryor) had the ball until he was about 15 yards downfield."
   Down but not out, HV was driving to tie the game early in the second quarter after a 46-yard pass completion from Todd Caldwell to Whaley. When the pair tried to hook up again three plays later, David Morgan stepped in front of the pass and raced 84 yards the other way for a second Rockwood score.
   "We stopped them and played good defense the first series," said HV head coach Stan Ogg. "We turned the field in our favor, but we couldn't get the first down and that was big. They're such a good defensive team. That fake punt was a fine play by them, a well-executed trick play.
   "Then we drive it back down to the 15-yard line. We get a holding penalty and the interception. No. 58 (Bowman) got pressure on the quarterback and the kid (Morgan) read the pass and stepped in front of it. That's 14 points, at the least a 14-point turnaround."
   After the next Warrior series went three and out, Rockwood put together the first sustained drive of the contest. Going 68 yards on 11 plays, the Tigers capped it off with a 7-yard quarterback keeper by Corey Payne.
   Trailing 21-0 after two quarters, senior lineman Daniel Dover made an impassioned plea on the sideline for the Warriors to raise their games in the second half. In spite of their best efforts, Rockwood was just too much. A 20-yard td run by Ellery Harvest with 4:33 left in the third quarter put the Tigers up 28-0.
   The final quarter showcased a play typical of HV's night. A pass from Caldwell bounced off receiver Drew Davis' hands only to be intercepted by the Tigers' Josh Clark, who returned the ball back to the Warrior six-yard line. The next play, Payne ran another quarterback keeper for a final Rockwood score.
   Two first down catches by Derrick Hamm and four strong runs by Whaley set up HV's lone score. Lance Whitehead pushed ahead from one yard out as the clock was running down for the last touchdown of the season. Casey Shatley added a final point, knocking through the PAT.
   Rockwood dominated all phases of the game, gaining 291 offensive yards to 173 for the Warriors and leading the first down column 12 to 7. Pryor paced the Tigers with 94 rushing yards, 49 of those courtesy of the fake punt. Harvest was in close pursuit with 90 yards and Clark added 55. Whaley led all Warrior rushers with 68 yards on 13 carries.
   Despite the outcome on Friday, it was a special season for the players in Maroon and White as noted by senior guard Daniel Dover.
   "I'm proud to have played football with ten players who gave everything they had on every play," said Dover. "I'm glad the last time we played, we got to on this field in front of the people who loved us. I never will forget any of these guys on this team.
   "That fake punt sucked real bad. We always practice against those trick plays, but this week was the first week we didn't. We didn't practice against that one and they got it."
   The Warrior line was a key player short as Cane Cannon missed the game due to dehydration. For every player on the field particularly on the line, it was a tough night against the powerful Tiger team.
   "We couldn't get anything done after that fake punt," said team captain Austin Shell. "Then after the interception return, we couldn't get up after that. Their line was big and strong, but their linebackers hurt us more in my mind.
   "You couldn't ask for much more than to go 9-1 on the season. I wish we could have went further in the playoffs, but we lost this week. That's just the way it goes."
   Happy Valley wrapped up its 2003 campaign with a final record of nine wins against two losses.
   "These kids have a lot to be proud of," said Ogg. "We're all sad and disappointed and hurt, but the sun will come up. You feel the most for the seniors, this being their last game, but they had a great season."
   Rockwood, also at 9-2 after helping Region 2 teams complete a sweep over Region 1 for a third straight year, will take on Oliver Springs in the second round of the TSSAA Class 2-A playoffs this coming Friday night.