Happy Valley's Brayden Sams pushes away a GCA defender. Sams suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter and was unable to return. Photos by Collin Brooks (email@example.com)
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Warriors suffer first setback of the season with 27-19 loss to Grace Christian Academy
It was apparent by the dissatisfied looks on the faces of Happy Valley players and coaches after their loss on Warrior Hill Friday night that they didn’t like their first taste of defeat during the 2017 season.
After making numerous offensive statements to open the season 5-0, Happy Valley’s offense sputtered and mental errors took their toll, allowing Grace Christian Academy (3-3) to take a 27-19 victory.
The Warriors stormed back from a 14-point deficit to score 19-unanswered points, but they were never able to get over the hump. During the final drive the Warriors were without starting quarterback Brayden Sams - who injured his non-throwing shoulder playing defense, but was in noticeable agony when he tried to throw - or backup quarterback Noah Stevens who was knocked out a few plays into the final drive.
But the Warriors didn’t give up, the offensive lineman gave freshman Eli Ayers enough time to complete a pass on 4th and 20 to give Happy Valley a few more shots at the end zone. Ultimately, they never connected, but that type of fight defined their night and could define their season.
“Our guys, I’m really proud of how we battled all night,” Jarrett said. “…This team is a band of brothers and they work hard and they fight for each other and for this community. I am really proud of them for that, we didn’t lay down all night and that is what makes good football teams. So we just need to keep going to work and hopefully we can accomplish some goals as we move forward down the road. There is a lot of tough football left to play.”
Sams, who status is uncertain after his shoulder injury, completed eight of his 13 passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. It was Dakota Cochran that set the tone for the Warriors as he had 101 yards on 12 carries and a rushing and receiving touchdown. The junior also intercepted a pass and recorded 11 solo tackles and a sack on the night.
“We found something there on the offensive side of the ball there that allowed him to show his ability,” Jarrett said, “defensively he was all over the field tonight.”
Fighting back was one of the biggest things that Jarrett said caught his eye from his team. The Warriors scored their first touchdown when Cochran rushed in from a yard out with 4:54 remaining before the half.
The Warriors were then able to recover a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the GCA 34-yard line. A few plays later Sams found Luke Phillips from five yards out. A missed extra point attempt made the score 14-13.
“I was really proud of the way our guys battled back, especially from being down two scores early on,” Jarrett said. “We could have folded right there, but these kids, man, there so tough; mentally and physically they just keep battling. And I’m so proud of them and the fight they had tonight. We just have to get better.”
The Warriors came out of the locker room taking chances would didn’t pay off, as Sams threw a deep interception. But the Warriors defense stepped up as Cochran wrangled in his interception and gave the Warriors short field position inside the GCA 25-yard line.
A few plays later, Sams connected with Cochran from five yards out with 6:57 remaining in the third quarter to make the score 19-14 after a failed two-point conversion.
GCA didn’t take long to answer, returning the ensuing kickoff to the Happy Valley 33-yard line and scoring only a minute later to make the score 20-19. The Warriors still had a chance to take the lead, but a missed 32-yard field goal by Happy Valley kicker Michael Harrah turned the ball over to the Rams.
They took advantage, driving down the field and scoring on a 15-yard pass from Kirby Logan to Bradley Rash to make the final score 27-19 with 2:41 remaining. Logan completed 22 of his 26 attempts for GCA, accumulating 269 yards through the air and a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.
Jarrett said that his Warriors will have to learn from their loss, as they will turn around and host undefeated Johnson County next Friday.
“This is a game that will make us a better football team, playing really good competition like this,” Jarrett said. “Our goals are still in front of us and we just have to get back to the drawing board and continue to get better.”
Grace Christian Academy coach Rusty Bradley - who coached University of Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith as head coach at University School of Jackson last year and served at head coach at Christian Academy of Knoxville the season before that - gained his 100th high school career win.