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ELIZABETHTON — Happy Valley finally had a close one go its way on Friday night.
Defensive back Stephen Barnette knocked away a pass intended for Johnson County receiver Greg Roark in the left corner of the end zone on the game’s final play as the Warriors held on for a 6-0 victory on Warrior Hill.
The Warriors improved to 1-1 in the Three Rivers Conference and 2-3 overall with the win, while the Longhorns fell to 0-3, 1-3.
“We were able to get some breaks we were looking for,” Happy Valley head coach Larry Shively said. “I’m so proud of the kids and the coaches. That was something we needed to stay in the mix in the conference. Battling through some of the injuries is tough at a small school. We played five freshmen on defense, but I knew they would play hard. That was a defensive game, but a good win for us.”
Johnson County was suffering from the injury bug as well with starting quarterback Warren Kerley out with a shoulder injury. Sophomore Justin Pardue started in his place and marched the Longhorns down the field nine plays on the opening drive before they missed a 27-yard field goal.
“Our kids responded well to Justin being quarterback and they played hard for him,” Johnson County head coach Mike Atwood said. “I’m not disappointed in the effort. I hate for the boys since they played their guts out. I thought we deserved to win, and I’m sure they did too. We had a chance to win the game at the end and that’s all you can ask for.”
The only score came in the second quarter.
Phillip Garland scored on a three-yard run with 1:15 left in the first half to cap off a12-play, 78-yard drive. The junior running back was the Warriors’ offensive leader with 18 rushes for 109 yards. Like his head coach, he was glad to see the Warriors get a victory any way they could.
“Some of the losses we’ve had this year like the Cloudland game have been absolute killers,” Garland said. “This feels great to get a win, any way we can get it. If it’s at the last second, hey it works.”
The game was obviously a defensive struggle, and Happy Valley was led by Austin Hicks with 12 tackles and James Hartley with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Josh Hammons provided the Warriors an all-around effort with two interceptions and six tackles at defensive back, to go along with five catches for 60 yards at wide receiver.
The Warriors also had an inspired effort by starting quarterback Tyler Marlowe, who was playing with a knee injury. Although he had limited mobility with a brace on, the senior completed 9 of 15 passes for 82 yards.
“That’s the definition of a Warrior,” Shively said. “He was a hurt young man, but he battled through those things. A couple of times, I was afraid he wasn’t going to get up, but he’s a senior leader and he led us to a victory we needed.”
It wasn’t easy as Johnson County defense kept the Longhorns in the game by denying Happy Valley twice in the red zone in the second half. Linebacker Peyton Fenner led the Longhorn defenders with a team-best 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.
After Happy Valley stalled at the Johnson County-23 on its final drive, the Longhorns marched down the field with Patrick South making it all the way to the Warrior-2 with six seconds left. A false start penalty pushed the ball back to the Warrior-7 for the final play, and the ball was nearly hauled in by Roark before Barnette saved the day for Happy Valley.
South led Johnson County’s offense, carrying the ball 25 times for 116 yards.
Happy Valley will host Abingdon, Va. next Friday in its last non-conference game of the season. Johnson County will play at longtime rival Hampton.