Pioneers host tough Hibriten tonight
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Hibriten invades Jack Groce Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. Northwestern Conference showdown against the Pioneers Friday night. The Panthers (7-0, 3-0 NWC) come into the game not only unbeaten, but they average 49 points per game and have outscored opponents 343-106 this season.
Watauga is in the middle of the toughest stretch of its schedule. Watauga's first six opponents -- Alexander Central, Ashe County, Avery, Wilkes Central, Fred T. Foard and St. Stephens -- have a combined record of 0-14 in the conference, 12-31 overall.
The last five games -- Freedom, Hibriten, Patton, Hickory and South Caldwell -- have a overall record of 25-10.
Despite the odds, Watauga coach Ryan Habich fully expects Watauga to walk out of Jack Groce Stadium with a victory on Friday.
"You want to work to win and you want to expect to win," Habich said. "You want to go into every game thinking you can win and I think you can. The football bounces funny sometimes."
Hibriten's success starts with an offense that returned nine starters from last year's team. They are quarterbacked by Jacob Cooper, who leads an offense that has piled up 1,269 yards this year.
The Panthers have also scored a 33 rushing touchdowns.
Watauga will counter with a balanced offense led by quarterback Aaron Dobbins. The sophomore threw for one touchdown to Nathan Ford and ran for another. He nearly led the Pioneers to an upset win over Freedom.
The Pioneers fell 41-34 in overtime in a game where Watauga was called for a sideline warning penalty on a fourth-and-six in overtime. Dobbins' pass to Cam Baker was incomplete on the fourth-and-11 and Freedom escaped with the win.
"For a sophomore, he's playing like a senior," Habich said of Dobbins. "Sometimes people forget that he's only a sophomore and he's going to make some mistakes, but he's playing really well."