Defensive skills, weight room should help HV

By JEFF BIRCHFIELD

STAR Staff

   Taking a page from the NFL Champion Baltimore Ravens, the 2001 Happy Valley Warriors are built on a strong defense, aided by dedication in the weight room.
   Even HV head coach Stan Ogg, who holds a Masters degree in the Lou Holtz art of poor-mouthing, finds plenty to be excited about with this year's defense.
   "I think the defense is ahead of the offense," said Ogg. "We returned more people and got them back healthy. We have some guys who rehabbed through the offseason. We're more intact defensively. They're a hungry bunch, who likes to play defense."
   In the first scrimmage of the year, Happy Valley showed just how good that defense could be, holding Sullivan East to one score, while the Warrior offense put the ball in the end zone four times.
   "I thought defensively we played really well," said Ogg about the season-opening scrimmage. "We had a little breakdown for about five plays where we didn't tackle well. Other than that, out of 60 defensive snaps by the varsity, 55 of them were pretty darned good."
   A four-man linebacking corps of Cody Cannon, Forrest Holt, Jason Tittle and Andy Hilton is the centerpiece of the Warrior defense. Cannon (5-11, 188) is the only junior of the bunch with Holt (6-0, 207), Tittle (5-11, 155) and Hilton (6-0, 189) all starting their final seasons on Warrior Hill.
   "That's our most experience," said Ogg, entering his fifth season at the Warrior helm. "We would have had all four starting linebackers back, if we hadn't have moved one (Jesse Bowers). Tittle was hurt a lot last year. He played through four games and then had trouble with his shoulder. It was rough. Overall, that is where we have the most depth coming back."
   One of the biggest changes is on the defensive line, where Bowers (6-5, 235) has been moved from his linebacking spot to a more natural position of defensive end. John Hughes (6-1, 221) will also bolster the front-line. This is to offset losing three starters off last season's squad.
   In the backfield will be junior James Matherly (5-8, 137) and senior Andy Bean (5-8, 141) on the corners. "Those two finished the year out, because our two seniors were out by weeks three and five respectively," explained Ogg. "Lamar Rollins (6-0, 192) will be at free safety."
   The 2001 Warriors also are more fit than a season ago with many on the team choosing to spend their free time in the summer time in the weight room.
   "I weighed about 215 last year," said Cannon. "This year I really worked off my weight. Me and Forrest Holt have been really been working out together. It should help my speed and strength."
   Added Bowers, "We've all been there all summer, trying to help each other out. We kind of keep either other straight in there."
   This version of the Warriors comes on the heels of last year's disappointing 4-6 season. After winning one of the biggest games in school history over Elizabethton 34-21 in week one, injuries depleted the ranks soon afterward, with starting quarterback Mark White lost with a torn ACL for the season.
   The end of the season came with a bitter 13-7 loss to cross-county rival Hampton, where the Warriors fumbled nine times.
   Rollins did an outstanding job as a replacement for White after the knee injury and will again take over behind center. "He's our quarterback and he's doing a good job," said Ogg, who has a record of 29-16 in his four prior seasons as Happy Valley head coach. "He's learning. He's very athletic and his work ethic is very good."
   The Warrior offense will mainly be a version of the option, inside-veer oriented, but with some key additions, there could be an occasional twist to the HV gameplan.
   "Lamar runs well," said Ogg. "But, he throws well too. It's no secret we're not throwing it 45 times a game, but, if we can protect and catch, we will throw the football too. We've got Jack Everhardt (5-5, 130) who has played for us for three years. Chris Campbell (6-2, 162) comes to us for the first time off the basketball team. He hadn't played since middle school, but he's a good-looking receiver. Andy Bean has played receiver for two and a half years. Jesse Bowers is a big target at tight end."
   Cannon is to pick some of the running chores at the starting tailback position. Stephen Thompson (5-7, 186) is expected to start at fullback. Tittle will play both tailback and fullback. Hilton and sophomore Tim Whaley (6-1, 182) are also expected to see playing time at fullback.
   Hilton has also been taking snaps in the backup quarterback role, replacing Jon Harrison (5-9, 159), who broke his foot in a Aug. 10 scrimmage with Greeneville and Tennessee High. Up front, Hughes, Matt Walsh (5-10, 253) and Daniel Back (5-11, 210) head up the trenches.
   Still, it is the defense expected to carry the Warriors over the hump in the early season. "We have to be careful and not turn the ball over and put our defense in a bad position like we did in the Hampton game last year," Ogg remarked. "We're taking practice one day at a time. The kids have a good attitude. They want it this year."