Fast start lifts Pioneers
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga used big plays to take a 29-point lead in a 43-21 victory over St. Stephens in the Pioneers’ final game of the regular season. Watauga plays at Porter Ridge in the first round of the playoffs Friday night.
The Pioneers, whose record is 5-6 overall (2-5 Northwestern Conference), is 5-5 in the eyes of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association since it does not recognize the Pioneers’ 40-8 loss to Elizabethton (Tenn.).
The Pioneers snapped a five-game losing streak this season, and a six-game losing streak to St. Stephens. Watauga lost three straight times to St. Stephens since the Indians joined the Northwestern Conference in 2009.
“It was nice and I felt like we came out with some urgency early,” Pioneers coach Tom Wright said. “We knew we were playing for a state playoff spot and I felt like we came out and played with some urgency and we responded well in the beginning of the ballgame.”
Watauga rolled up 386 yards in total offense despite having the ball for just two plays in the second quarter. Then again, one of those plays was an 89-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Aaron Dobbins to Cameron Baker, which put Watauga in front 29-0.
It was the final of three touchdown passes for Dobbins, who completed 11-of-13 passes for 265 yards with no interceptions for the second straight week.
“Cam played really good tonight and so did (fullback) Collin (Augustine),” Dobbins said. “We had a lot of people step up, especially in the first half. We kept battling in the second half, especially on defense.”
Baker was the freshman quarterback’s favorite target by catching six passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. The two connected for a 50-yard touchdown pass on Watauga’s fourth play of the game, and added a 7-yard TD that capped a 74-yard, seven-play drive.
“Aaron’s a great quarterback,” Baker said. “He’s going to do some great things.”
Watauga also got a second strong performance from Augustine, who ran for 88 yards on 15 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run that gave Watauga a 22-0 lead.
The score was set up when a bad snap got past St. Stephens’s punter Tommy Vo. Luke Watson smothered Vo as the punter kicked the ball for just seven yards, giving Watauga possession at the St. Stephens 43. Augustine gained the final 27 yards of the drive, including his 1-yard score.
“We were able to run our zone scheme we tried to run all year long and we struggled a bit,” Wright said. “We were able to run it tonight and it was pretty successful for us. Of course Aaron Dobbins throwing the ball to Cameron Baker in the first quarter was special.”
Augustine, who returned to the field the previous game after breaking his collarbone in the third week of the season last, broke a 74-yard touchdown run in Watauga’s second possession, but saw it come taken away because of a penalty.
“We were running zone all night,” Augustine said. “We finally came out with a ‘dart’ where the tackle pulls. It was great. The line blocked great and it worked perfectly.”
Dobbins regrouped the Watauga offense by finding Baker for a 38-yard gain, and converting a fourth-and-four with a 32-yard completion to DeWayne Mackey.
That put the ball at the St. Stephens 7-yard line. He found Baker one play later for their second touchdown play of the game.
Watauga dominated the first quarter, but St. Stephens (3-8, 1-5) struck back with a pair of touchdowns in the second half without letting Watauga possess the ball. The Indians capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a Marvin Sutton 1-yard TD run.
St. Stephens got the ball back when Mackey fumbled after being hit on the ensuing kickoff. St. Stephens recovered, and Sutton scored on a 23-yard run with 17 seconds left in the half to pull the Indians to 22-14.
St. Stephens ended up holding the ball for 10:46 of the 12 minutes of the second quarter.
The Indians put together an impressive 78-yard, 17-play drove that was capped by a 1-yard Davon Richardson touchdown that left St. Stephens behind 29-21. The drive took 8:04 to complete and brought the Indians back in the game.
“You have to give them credit,” Wright said. “They didn’t lay down and quit. They took it and scored on a long drive and then we gave it back to them. When they put that second one in, I got a little nervous because we breathed life back in them and let them back in this ballgame.”
Sutton provided most of the offense for St. Stephens. The quarterback gained 141 yards on 20 carries rushing, and completed 9-of-13 passes for 92 yards and no interceptions despite the Indians being a run-first offense.
Watauga put the game away with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Augustine scored on a 3-yard run, and Mackey intercepted a Kaelyn Phillips pass and returned it seven yards for a touchdown with 1:27 left in the fourth quarter.