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Pair of big defensive plays vital in Hawks’ win
Aaron Blance transfers to HVA, but Jones unsure of former Webb star running back’s football future

Hardin Valley Academy’s football team got a little defensive Friday night.

The Hawks saw their defense make a pair of early big plays in a 26-20 District 3-AAA victory over Campbell County at Jacksboro Sept. 16.

Meanwhile, former Webb School of Knoxville star running back Aaron Blance, a junior, enrolled in HVA earlier this month, Hawks head coach Wes Jones confirmed. Blance’s eligibility status for football, assuming he plays for the Hawks in 2012, was undetermined at deadline according to Jones.

Barring any hardship exemption from TSSAA, Blance would not be eligible to play football at Hardin Valley until exactly one full year after his last participation at Webb (Saturday, Aug. 19, versus Maryville), according to TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie.

Blance, one of the county’s top running backs, “Has not made any contact with anybody in the football program,” Jones said Saturday. “As far as his eligibility is concerned, we’ve been told to refer those questions to the athletic director [George Ashe]. I’m concerned with the kids who are in our program now.”

Despite repeated attempts, Ashe could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.

Hardin Valley (3-1 overall, 2-0 in the district) forced Campbell County into two early turnovers and scored 14 points of the two Cougar miscues.

On its first possession, Campbell County (1-4, 0-3) fumbled and Hardin Valley’s Xavier Dumay recovered deep in enemy territory. Jacob Weaver scored the game’s first touchdown a short time later to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

Hardin Valley extended its advantage to 14-0 later in the opening stanza when Matt Rabren returned an interception 48 yards for a score.

“Campbell County is a tough place to play and this was a tough ball game,” Jones said. “It was their homecoming and we knew that they were going to come out and play hard, and to their credit, they did.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it,” he added. “Our defense has played well all season.”

Campbell County did manage a late first-quarter touchdown to pull to within 14-6.

The second quarter was a defensive slugfest and the only scoring of the frame was a 45-yard field goal by Hardin Valley’s Michael Peryo, which gave the Hawks a 17-3 lead at the half.

For three quarters, the Hawks’ defense was dominant as it forced the two turnovers and surrendered just six points.

Senior linebacker Matt Winstead led the way with 13 tackles. Rabren, a junior linebacker, finished with 11. Devon Cox and Demonte Felden each made eight stops while Thomas Echols had seven.

While Jones, the Hawks’ third-year coach, was happy with his team’s victory, he said the Hawks are still trying to get better.

“This was a [district] win and those are all big,” he said. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”

The Hawks, dominant the first three quarters, were able to withstand a fourth-quarter rally.

The Cougars outscored Hardin Valley 20-9 in the final stanza as Jordan Newport, who rushed for 56 yards on 19 carries, found the end zone and Peryo converted a 23-yard field goal.

Hardin Valley, as it has done all season, ran the ball effectively.

Senior Dorian Eskridge carried 17 times for 84 yards. Weaver rushed seven times for 35 yards and a TD. “We want to run the football and play good defense,” Jones said.

The Hawks threw just six passes for 36 yards. Senior starting quarterback Tim Vara was 2-for-4 for 22 yards. Jon Beatty was 2-for-2 (14 yards) in the second half.


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