Boy, did Happy Valley need a game like that.
The Warriors ran over Sullivan East 42-6 on Friday night. It was Happy Valley's second win of the season, and kept the team on the fringe of playoff contention.
“The kids played extremely hard like they have the last three or four games,” said Warriors' head coach Larry Shively. “It was a breath of fresh air to win like that. I told the coaches it was like going to Dollywood and getting to ride the rollercoasters instead of standing around eating funnel cakes.
“It was a relief. We had fun, and the kids needed that. This was extra critical for our confidence level.”
Happy Valley scored two more points in one game than it had totaled all season. Running back Phillip Garland was front and center in the offensive explosion.
The sophomore had 232 yards on 15 carries, and scored three touchdowns on runs of 66, 66 and 28 yards. And he had a 40-yard run called back because of a penalty.
“He ran extremely hard, and the offensive line is starting to come together,” said Shively. “The effort has been there, but we're executing now.
“We're going back to the things we came to Happy Valley to do, and that's run the football. We need to be stubborn and hard-headed about running the football, finishing plays, and finishing blocks.”
There were plenty of Warriors finishing blocks in this game. Shively said junior guard Eli Hyder got after it pretty good, and sophomore tackle Conner Cross finished plays downfield.
Also, Shively said Jesse Henley, Tyler Jackson, and Jake Griggs made big impacts on the offensive line.
“All of them played well,” said Shively.
Happy Valley used its triple-option offense, but incorporated the shotgun formation more often.
“It gives the quarterback a little more room for error,” said Shively. “And it gives him a chance to make something happen. Sometimes we don't do what we're supposed to up front, so I think the shotgun helps us offensively.
“The players like the shotgun. We're still doing the same drills. We're just back in the shotgun.”
Defensively, the Warriors were stout from start to finish. They limited East's offensive production to small gains.
“We didn't give up any chunk plays,” said Shively. “We really dominated the line of scrimmage, and set the tempo.
“We stuffed the run game and made them one-dimensional. We had guys instantly in the backfield. We've played well on defense this year.”
Standing out on the defensive side of the ball were end Clint Maxwell, a senior, along with middle linebacker Trey Perkins and senior outside linebacker Drew Holsclaw.
“We had 11 guys to the football,” said Shively. “We overwhelmed them.”
Overall, the Warriors finally got all phases of the game clicking together.
“It was a complete game for us, finally,” said Shively. “We've been frustrated with suspensions and people kicked off the team. It's like playing solitaire with 51 cards. We're looking for kids who are proud to wear the uniform.”
Now the Warriors face a very tough finish to the season. After a bye week, they will meet Sullivan North, Hampton, and Johnson County.
“We just need to do what we did this last couple of weeks of practice,” said Shively. “We've got to take each play one at a time and not worry about anything else. We've got to be committed to what we're trying to build at Happy Valley, and try to do things the right way.”