by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The Indians, who go into their Northwestern Conference showdown with Watauga at Jack Groce Stadium tonight with an 0-4 record. St. Stephens finished 2-9 last season, including a 43-21 setback to the Pioneers in the final week of the 2012 season.
St. Stephens has not had a winning season since 2008 and went 0-22 during the 2004-05 seasons.
Yet, the Indians have given Watauga problems. Before 2012, St. Stephens beat Watauga three straight times.
So, even though Watauga goes into the game -- which is homecoming night for the Pioneers -- with a 4-0 record, Pioneers head coach Ryan Habich is not taking the Indians lightly. He pointed out that St. Stephens has played three teams with winning records and an improved Alexander Central team last week, which beat the Indians 49-14.
"The biggest thing is you want to see improvement each week," Habich said. "That's the one thing we try to do in practice is find things we're not doing very well and improve on that and our kids have done a good job responding."
Watauga's offense has improved tremendously since it struggled in a 13-7 overtime win over Ashe County. The Pioneers have scored 99 points in the last two weeks, including their 42-0 win over Wilkes Central on Sept. 20.
A big reason for the Pioneers' success is quarterback Aaron Dobbins, who has thrown for eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the 10 quarters he's played this season. Dobbins completed 8-of-14 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns against Wilkes Central.
"I think we can throw the ball well with our rollout game and our sprint game," Habich said. "I would like to get better with our play-action game. I think we have a good quarterback and good wide receivers who can catch the ball. What we want to get good at is pass protection."
Habich said the Pioneers have not completely opened their playbook.
"We'd like to do more things," Habich said. "Once you get a feel for your team -- it's so early on for us and it's a huge playbook. We have a lot more run plays from the shotgun and things like that. You want to find things that your team does well. What I've always learned is find what you do well and get really good at it. Then work on your weaknesses."
Running the football was a Watauga weakness until the Pioneers rushed for 266 yards in a 57-36 victory over Avery on Sept. 13. Pioneers wingback T.J. Poulos ran for 129 yards on just 14 carries, while fullback Zach Williams ran for 102 yards on 22 carries.
The Pioneers added 196 yards rushing against Wilkes Central when both Dobbins and Williams ran for 99 yards each. Williams scored touchdown runs of five, two and one yards.