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Originally published: 2013-08-25 18:22:00
Last modified: 2013-08-25 18:22:44

Behr: Passing game clicks for Pioneers

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

Watauga football coach Ryan Habich said when he took the job in April that he would like his team to be able to run the football effectively.
That hasn't changed.
He also said in the preseason that passing the ball, at least for the time being, is the best way for the Pioneers to move the football.
After seeing Watauga's offense dismantle Alexander Central's defense in the Pioneers' 34-12 victory at Jack Groce Stadium Friday, that hasn't changed, either.
Watauga starting quarterback Aaron Dobbins, and the rest of the Pioneers' offense, shell- shocked Alexander Central. The Pioneers' first pass was actually thrown by wingback T.J. Poulos, who took a lateral from Dobbins and found Cam Baker behind the Cougars' secondary.
Baker made it to the Alexander Central 1-yard line before catching a 12-yard TD from Dobbins. Watauga still has to work on not turning a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line into a first-and-goal from the 12, but the end result was still six points.
This is not the first time Dobbins has gotten off to a fast start in a season. His first game in high school was a junior varsity matchup against A.C. Reynolds in 2012. The Watauga offense scored 48 points (the defense also added six points) in a 54-48 win.
I don't care if A.C. Reynolds is playing varsity, junior varsity or peewee football. Sticking 48 points on any Rockets team is impressive.
Dobbins was on pace to do the same to Alexander Central in the Pioneers' 2013 opener Friday night. At one point of the first quarter, the sophomore right-hander had completed all four of his passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns, both to Baker.
Dobbins doesn't even remember his third touchdown pass, another completion to Baker. A few plays earlier, Dobbins ventured out of the pocket on a 5-yard run and was hit hard. After his 39-yard TD strike to Baker, Watauga held a 20-0 first-quarter lead, and Dobbins' night was over.
Still, it was a special night for Dobbins, even if he couldn't remember almost anything after he suffered his concussion. He completed 5-of-6 passes for 111 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. NFL quarterbacks would take those numbers for a quarter.
Dobbins' accuracy with the deep pass, combined with his ability to avoid the Alexander Central rush, made it happen.
It took backup Austin Northern a while to get his rhythm going. Northern said the speed of the game was not what he was accumstomed, but he caught up in the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes to Michael Ebaugh.
Northern could have had another touchdown pass thrown in the second quarter, but the ball was dropped in the end zone. Still, his final numbers were 5-of-6 passing, 113 yards and two TDs.
Combined with Poulos' completion, Watauga connected on 11-of-13 passing for 319 yards.
Consistency with the running game will be critical once the Northwestern Conference begins. Defenses will catch on to Watauga's passing game and take the necessary steps to stop it.
Habich's desire to control the clock is also a good idea. Watauga got away with being outgained 263-56 on the ground Friday night. Watauga also ran just 39 plays compared to 63 for the Cougars.
Usually that spells disaster.
But because Watauga's passing game put so much pressure on the Alexander Central offense to catch up, a disaster was avoided. It worked on Friday, but he Pioneers can't afford to let that be a habit in future games.
Having a balanced attack with the run and the pass tends to win a lot more games.
The conference schedule also doesn't do the Pioneers any favors. In nonconference games, Watauga plays at 2-A Ashe on Friday and at 1-A Avery on Sept. 13 before hosting 2-A Wilkes Central on Sept. 20.
Then it's to the NWC schedule, where some of the 3-A teams can beat more than their share of 4-A programs. Hibriten and Hickory come to mind.
So does 4-A Freedom, which returns to the conference this season.
But the passing game looked sharp Friday night.