The Warriors knew it was going to be battle on Rebel Hill. At the end of the night, they were enjoying a treat a night early.
Brayden Sams intercepted a South Greene pass at the goaline with 58 seconds remaining to secure a 28-22 victory for Happy Valley in Region 1-2A action. The win punches the Warriors’ ticket to the Class 2A playoffs which begin next Friday night.
“I’m so proud of our kids, our coaching staff,” Happy Valley Head Coach Jason Jarrett said. “We had one common goal when we started the season and that was get back to the playoffs. I’ve challenged our guys to make it happen.”
Happy Valley struck first after a muffed Rebel punt return. That set the stage as Austin Hicks scored on a 14-yard run and added the two-point conversion to put HV up 8-0. South Greene responded on their next drive as Justin Casteel hit Tyler Waddell for a 16-yard score, but the Warriors stopped the Rebel two-point conversion try.
Happy Valley, however, answered against as Sage Haun found Josh Hammonds for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Hicks added the two-point try as the Warriors held a 16-6 lead after a quarter of play.
Neither team was able to get anything going in the second quarter as they traded punts. Happy Valley maintained a 16-6 lead at the half.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, South Greene moved the ball to the HV three-yard line. However, the Warrior defense forced three consecutive incompletions – including on fourth down – to snuff out the drive.
The teams traded possessions before Haun found Hammonds again, this time for a 66-yard touchdown pass that pushed the lead to 22-6 at the end of the third quarter.
In the final quarter, Haun found Hammonds for the duo’s third touchdown of the night on a 15-yard pass as Happy Valley took a 28-6 advantage. However, the Rebels weren’t going down without a fight.
After an impressive Rebel drive to pull within two scores, Happy Valley was held to a three and out. That set up another South Greene touchdown drive that pulled the Rebels within six points on a Casteel to Brandon Matts touchdown pass. South Greene was also able to recover the onside kick.
After Richie Lowery raced the Rebels inside the 20, South Greene saw their progress slowed. That set the stage for Sams beautiful interception at the goal line with 58 seconds remaining to secure the win for Happy Valley.
“What about Brayden Sams,” Jarrett said. “He’s had all kinds of adversity this week. He hasn’t practiced since Monday, but we didn’t even think he was going to be cleared to play. That’s a sophomore right there stepping up to make the big pick.”
Hicks tallied 105 yards on nine carries to lead the Warrior rushing attack. Haun went 8-of-14 passing for 140 yards and three scores, while Hammonds had four catches for 117 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
Casteel led South Greene by going 22-of-35 for 204 yards and two scores. For the game, South Greene outgained Happy Valley 395-281.
“That is the thing about these guys,” South Greene Co-Head Coach Shawn Jones said. “They have played hard all year, and we just can’t get a break. We thought we got a break on the onside kick. The kids played hard, and we can’t ask no more. It was just a classic South Greene-Happy Valley game.”
Happy Valley will open the playoffs next Friday night.