Ashe County picks up win over West Caldwell
by Jesse Campbell
GAMEWELL — Following Friday Ashe County’s grind-it-out style 20-14 victory over West Caldwell, new Huskies coach Brian Hampton said a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
“This win is big for Ashe County,” Hampton said. “I told the kids in the pregame that if they do one thing tonight, make this county proud and I think they did just that.”
Playing in the newly installed spread offense, the Huskies found trouble running the ball early on due to a zealous Warriors’ defense that was persistent in penetrating Ashe’s backfield and stopping the counter game.
Instead, quarterback Eli Gambill became the Huskies’ workhorse. Hampton repeatedly called the senior’s number on draw plays and keepers straight up the middle that yielded consistent yardage. The fact that Gambill only played one side of the ball kept the senior captain fresh throughout the night.
“We weren’t fast enough to get outside so we found a play that could get us four yards every time,” Hampton said.
West Caldwell, like the Huskies, was hampered by a non-existent passing game in the first half. Costly penalties and an incapability to capitalize off of turnovers and miscues also hurt the Warriors.
Ashe found pay dirt in the first quarter when Gambill found Matthew Hamilton for a 56-yeard touchdown strike to go ahead 7-0.
Ashe County’s defense stood strong on the Warriors’ ensuing drive. A 21-yard touchdown run by West Caldwell was erased due to a holding call. Ashe later forced a turnover on downs.
The Warriors would later find themselves in superb field position thanks to blocked punt that put West Caldwell on the Huskies’ 10-yard line. A few plays later, West Caldwell found the end zone through the air to tie the game.
The teams spent the rest of the first half and part of the third quarter trading possessions until the Warriors’ offense found their rhythm, driving deep into Huskies’ territory.
Despite the excellent scoring opportunity, the Warriors would be denied the touchdown when Ashe senior Hawkens Flanagan scooped up a fumble on the Huskies’ 8-yard line, reversing momentum in the game.
The Huskies pulled ahead for good when Gambill punched in a touchdown from 1-yard out, capping off a clock consuming drive that included six plays inside the Warriors’ 5-yard line and two fourth down stands.
Ashe then sealed the game on the Warriors’ next possession when Kolten Pilar took an errant West Caldwell pass to the end zone on an interception.
West kept its chances alive on its last possession with a 1-yard score.
Instead of trying the onside kick-off to regain the football, the Warriors’ coaching staff opted for a questionable play call when their kicker sent the ball deep into the Huskies’ territory with only two minutes remaining.
Relying on the ground game once again, Ashe forced the Warriors to burn their remaining timeout and ran out the clock.
While he savored his first victory as the Huskies coach, Hampton said there is still much work left to be done. Hampton added his team needed to “improve everything” including special teams that gave up two blocked punts, as well as a rusty passing game.
He applauded the hard work in the trenches done by the entire offensive line and remains impressed with the play of Cullen Ashley.
“The defense played solid and we always need to work on tackling,” Hampton said.
Ashe returns to action next Friday with a showdown against archrival Watauga in Boone.