Happy Valley senior running back Will Tittle didn't get knocked down all that much in his sophomore campaign (2017), when he and quarterback Brayden Sams led the Warriors to a 5-0 start and finished 8-4.
However, Tittle’s junior season was nowhere near his own high expectations as he was marred with injuries, culminating in a broken arm during the last game of the season — a 23-7 first-round exit, courtesy of Oneida, in the Class 2A playoffs.
He hopes to write a different storyline this season, leading a group of nine seniors onto the gridiron in late August.
“I knew that I had to hit the weight room hard and figure out what I was going to do. I was either going to sit down and give up or start working harder than I was last year,” Tittle said. “I’ve hit the gym hard with my teammates and we’ve gotten even stronger and better than we ever were before. I haven’t seen anything like up here before.”
The Warriors have been solid on defense for the past three years, even while being young last season in the defensive backfield, starting mostly freshman and sophomores. Tittle is not normally known for his defensive prowess, but head coach Jason Jarrett says he will play a more intricate role as an outside linebacker.
“I love hitting people now,” Tittle said. “On Friday in our scrimmage, it hyped me up and made me want to start hitting people for real.”
Tittle started the 2018 season at the quarterback position, but became beat up with three or four nagging injuries and eventually moved back to his more natural position at running back. Dakota Cochrane filled in for Tittle quite well as the Warriors returned to a more power-run style of offense.
This season, Tittle is listed as the starting running back and says that the transition back has not been hard, but it is something he's trying to get used to.
“It’s not necessarily re-learning how to be a running back full time, but it’s about getting back in a groove,” he said. “It’s totally different from running the ball as running back as opposed to a quarterback.”
“We talk about facing adversity a lot in our program,” Jarrett said. “There’s two ways you can look at it — you can fold or you can face it head-on. In our program, we teach that you have to face it head-on because that’s what you have to do in life. We’re all facing adversity every day.
“Will is a kid that if you take his junior year and all the injuries he faced — mostly three or four small injuries that ended in a broken arm — he’s faced them head-on.”
Tittle played through several injuries last season and was a leader on the field even when he was banged up. The Warriors finished up 5-6 last season, but the offense struggled mightily at times, scoring a combined 42 points in the six losses.
“He’s put on some muscle and I think he’s picked up a step or two,” Jarrett said. “He works hard and the kids follow him closely. We’re glad he’s on our team and he’s a great young man to be around.”
The Warriors play in what is arguably the most competitive conference (Region 1-2A) in Northeast Tennessee, if not the whole state. Four similar teams figure to be log-jammed at the top this year, vying for ideal playoff seeding. Tittle knows that he will be relied on heavily week in and week out and he has been preparing hard this offseason.
“It’s tough playing in a conference like we do, but it helps us get ready for the playoffs,” Tittle said. “We schedule hard games out of conference and coach tells us that if we can't make it in this tough schedule, we aren't going to make it in the playoffs.”
The Warriors open up the 2019 season with three consecutive home games, beginning with Cloudland on Aug. 23. Chuckey-Doak and Hampton follow.