The return of Michael Tarver added another element to the already potent Rebel running game.
The Rebels reduced their turnovers, but the passing game and their penchant for penalties sank Highland again, as the Rebs lost to Valley View 14-6 on Oct. 16 on the Blazers' home turf.
Even this late in the season, none of the five teams fighting for the last two playoff spots are out and that includes Highland.
Valley View is now tied with the Rebels and Westside at 1-3 in the 3-4A. Trumann is in great shape at 2-2.
"The last few weeks we've been in ballgames; had a chance to win. This is the one we were hoping we could get," said Rebel Head Coach Clay Wiggins. "We had our chances tonight. We just weren't up to the task."
Highland had two drives that defined its loss to Valley View; the first and last.
The Rebel defense stopped Valley View's initial drive after giving up just one first down, and the Rebel offense got the ball at their own 35-yard line.
Using a couple of Blazer penalties, along with solid running from Blake Martin, Scott Gatewood and Tarver, Highland moved the ball into Valley View's red zone. Will Edmondson and Tarver each converted a third-and -long to keep the drive alive.
On first down at the Blazer 13, the Reb offense was backed up five yards because of a false start.
Edmondson and Tarver couldn't connect on a wide-open pass over the middle. Martin regained four yards on second down, but another false start backed Highland up again.
Edmondson threw a pass into the end zone, but 6-5 Codie LaCount was surrounded by defenders and didn't come back for the ball.
Again, the offense was called for a false start to give the Rebs a fourth-and-21 from the 24-yard line. Edmondson's pass to Ben Markway went incomplete to finish the drive.
The excitement of Highland's last drive really started three series earlier.
After a Rebel punt, the Blazers' bruising back Ron Hubbard, coughed up the ball on the first play and Brandon Sharp recovered it at the Valley View 40.
Two plays later, Hubbard picked off an Edmondson pass at the Blazer 14.
Vinnie Roberto snagged a Taylor Lindley pass three plays later to give the ball back to Highland at the 14 with about two minutes left in the game.
All the Rebs had to do was push the ball into the end zone, get the 2-point conversion and the game would be tied.
It was easier typed then done.
Martin bobbled the ball on first down for a loss of three yards.
A false start penalty on second lost five more yards. Tarver drove the defender into the end zone and came back out to catch the Edmondson pass for the first down at the 3-yard line.
Wiggins called his last time out.
Martin blasted up the middle, but the Blazer line stopped him at the 1.
Gatewood took his try at the middle, but also couldn't get in for the score. Edmondson, who has had success on the quarterback sneak this season, was stopped short, as well.
On all three downs, time ran off the clock as both lines un-piled from the line of scrimmage.
Obviously, Valley View was in no hurry.
In a confusing turn of events on fourth down with 22 seconds left, center Colt Johnson lined up on the ball, but the rest of the team went to the huddle.
When Johnson stood up from the ball the team was called for a false start and moved back to the 6.
Edmondson's pass into the end zone could have been for Tarver or Landon Strobbe. Neither of them caught it.
"I think the difference in the game is we made a lot more penalties than they did," explained Wiggins. "Even there at the end, they gave us a chance to tie the game and we get down there and we make another penalty. Our mental mistakes is what caused us the ball game."
Valley View scored its first touchdown with about 11 minutes to go in the first half. Lindley hit Jordan Howard on the slant for the 22-yard score. John Gay added the PAT.
"Defense played really well. They played lights out. We had them schemed really well," said Wiggins. "In the first half, we just had one or two breakdowns defensively."
Highland scored on the opening drive of the second half by putting together a 10-play, 74-yard drive.
Kick returner Jake Horton was called for a facemask penalty to place the ball at the Highland 26.
Martin sandwiched two 3-yard runs around a Gatewood 13-yard scamper.
A false start penalty pushed Highland back, but didn't deter the Rebels.
Gatewood powered his way for nine yards, Edmonson another two, and Gatewood vaulted over the line for the first down.
Martin got through the line and barreled his way for a 40-yard gain to the 7.
Tarver got one up the middle, Gatewood two and Martin the other four for the score. Instead of tying the game with a Strobbe PAT, Wiggins asked Martin to go off right tackle of the 2-point conversion. He was stopped short.
The Blazers had three turnovers in the game, including an interception in the third quarter by Rebel defense back Jonathan Trivitt, but none of the turnovers turned into points.
The final score came when Hubbard rushed in from three yards out at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Valley View suffered a holding call on the drive, but the Rebs had two personal fouls to get the ball to the three.
Martin had 18 carries for 68 yards, and Gatewood had 76 yards on 13 rushes. Edmondson was five-of-22 for 52 yards.
Highland, (2-5, 1-3) will host Pocahontas (1-6, 0-4) on Oct. 23.
"Next week is against rival Pocahontas. I think they've got the same level of talent we've got," said Wiggins. "I don't think it'll be hard for them to get up to play Pocahontas."