Pioneers cruise past Alexander Central
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga coach Ryan Habich didn't really care if his Pioneers won any of the three preseason scrimmages played earlier in August. It's winning games that matters most.
A fast start doesn't hurt when it comes to winning games.
Watauga's offense got off to a blistering start by scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter. The Pioneers never looked back in their 34-12 victory over Alexander Central in the season opener for both teams.
Habich stuck to mostly calling basic plays in the scrimmages, but dug deep in the playbook to stick 20 points on Alexander Central in the first quarter. Watauga quarterback Aaron Dobbins connected with Cameron Baker for touchdown throws of 12, 25 and 39 yards to give the Pioneers a 20-0 lead.
"We had some injuries up front," Habich said. "We had to move our tight end (Hunter Isaacs) to B-back. Up front really wasn't our strong point, so we felt that on the perimeter we could do some things on them after watching some film."
The play that set up the first touchdown, which caught most of the crowd at Jack Groce Stadium, and Alexander Central's defense, by surprise. It was a 39-yard completion from wingback T.J. Poulos to Baker, which gave Watauga a first-and-goal at the Cougars' 1-yard line.
Watauga was moved back to the 12 by a 6-yard loss and a penalty, but Dobbins scrambled away from some trouble and found Baker in the corner of the end zone. Baker went up for the ball like he was going for a rebound on the basketball court, and the Pioneers took a 7-0 lead.
Dobbins connected on his first four passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. He had completed 5-of-6 for 111 yards and three touchdowns, but he received a concussion on a play during the drive that the Pioneers scored their third TD.
Dobbins said he did not remember his third touchdown pass or
much else after his injury,
"I guess I got hit in the head pretty hard," Dobbins said. "I'm alright now, but my head hurts a little bit."
Dobbins did not return to the game, and was replaced by Austin Northern, who after a slow start, completed 5-for-6 passes for 113 yards and touchdown strikes of 25 and 40 yards to Michael Ebaugh in the fourth quarter.
Northern, a junior, is on his third head coach in his three years at Watauga. He took his first snaps on the varsity level, which he said was much faster than on the junior varsity level.
"I've been lucky to play quarterback for three years, but this was my first on the varsity," Northern said. "It took a while to get in there, but once I calmed down -- coach Habich talked to me -- I was fine."
The Pioneers completed 11-of-13 passes for 263 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Watauga outgained Alexander Central 319-278 even though Alexander Central ran 63 plays compared to just 39 for the Pioneers.
Watauga's defense gave up one scoring play over 20 yards -- a 25-yard touchdown pass from Landon Hammer to Jacob Reese in the second quarter. The Cougars drove 49 yards in seven plays before Hammer scored from three yards out with 11:53 left in the fourth quarter.
Hammer led all rushers with 92 yards on 14 carries. Devante Clark gained 67 yards on 21 carries.
Watauga linebacker Dakota McCreary led the Pioneers with 15 total tackles. Jacob Watson added 10 tackles along the defensive line, while Justin Greer had seven tackles.
Isaacs led the Pioneers in rushing with 19 yards on eight carries. The Pioneers were outrushed 263-56 by the Cougars.
Watauga 34, Alexander Central 12
Alexander Central 0 6 0 6 -- 12
Watauga 20 0 0 14 -- 34
Score by quarter
WHS--Baker 12 pass from Dobbins (Shirley kick)
WHS--Baker 25 pass from Dobbins (Shirley kick)
WHS--Baker 39 pass from Dobbins (Kick failed)
AC--Reese 25 pass from Hammer (Kick failed)
AC--Hammer 3 run (Fox kick)
WHS--Ebaugh 25 pass from Northern (Shirley kick)
WHS--Ebaugh 40 pass from Northern (Shirley kick)
First downs 14 14
Rushes-yards 49-222 26-56
Passing yards 56 263
Passes 14-6-0 13-11-0
Total plays-yards 63-278 39 319
Punts-avg. 4-40.5 3-41.7
Penalties-yards 5-50 3-15
Fumbles-lost 2-0 5-2
Time of poss: 28:12 19:48
Rushing: Alexander Central--Hammer 14-92, Clark 21-67, Starnes 10-59, Alanis 1-5; Watauga--Isaacs 8-19, Dobbins 3-17, Northern 8-8, Poulos 2-6.
Passing: Alexander Central--Hammer 6-14-0 56; Watauga--Dobbins 5-6-0 111, Northern 5-6-0 113, Poulos 1-1-0 39.
Receiving: Alexander Central--Bowman 3-20, Reese 1-25, Spratt 1-12, Starnes 1 (-1); Watauga--Baker 4-115, Ebaugh 4 1-0, Poulos 3-39.