Pioneers face West Caldwell without Augustine
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Augustine, a potential All-Northwestern Conference player, was supposed to lead the defense and was likely to run the ball the most for the Pioneers in 2012. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Augustine was one of the biggest and most talented Pioneers on the roster.
All of those plans came to a crashing halt last Friday night at Jack Groce Stadium when Augustine left the field with a broken collarbone. Suddenly, the Pioneers had to resort to a backup plan.
They’ll get their first look at how that new plan will work when they host West Caldwell today at 7:30 p.m., at Jack Groce Stadium.
Wright is happy to be at home for the third straight week playing another border rival. Watauga (2-1) beat Ashe County and Avery County in the past two games.
“Anytime you have a home crowd, and we have good crowds and our student section really gets into it, I think we do play harder,” Wright said. “It’s always nice to be in the friendly confines of your own stadium.”
It also gives the Pioneers a full game to adjust to not having Augustine before having to start their Northwestern Conference season schedule at Fred T. Foard next week. Wright said the Pioneers have no choice but to move on, but replacing Augustine won’t be easy.
Augustine gained 289 yards and scored two touchdowns rushing in 43 attempts this season. He was also third with 20 tackles defensively for the Pioneers. Eight tackles led to 37 yards in losses.
“I just don’t think you can replace an individual talent like Collin,” Wright said. “He’s just irreplaceable. He brings that type of athleticism and enthusiasm to that position. We feel confident these other players are going to step up in his position and play well. If everybody else will rally around it like they did the other night, then we’ll be fine.”
Offensively, the Pioneers turn to sophomore runner T.J. Poulos, who played well at tailback on the junior varsity level last season. Poulos has 37 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 14 carries on the varsity level this season.
He’s also returned five punts for 11 yards, but had a return for a touchdown called back because of a penalty against Ashe County.
Wright said wingback Nick Williams could also see some carries from the tailback position. Nick McLean would replace Williams.
Defensively, Brian Opatoski will be moved into Augustine’s place.
“I don’t think we’re going to change our game plan at all,” Wright said. “I think we’re going to try to take what the defense gives us, which is what we already try to do.”
The Pioneers face a West Caldwell (0-3) team that has lost 15 straight games dating back to 2010. Watauga beat West Caldwell 31-14 last year.
The Warriors have a new coach in Kyle Dunn, their third coach in the last five years. He replaces Randy Baldwin, who was 4-18 during his two-year tenure.
Dunn has his work cut out for him. West Caldwell is 19-84 since its last winning season, which was in 2002. The Warriors’ last victory was a 34-33 decision over Draughn back in 2010.
Wright’s not taking the Warriors, who have scored just 28 points in their three games, lightly. “Looking at them on film, they have some individual talent,” Wright said. “They’re having trouble getting that together as a team. Sooner or later they will. It will come together for them.”