Pioneers take on Fred T. Foard
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The last time the Pioneers opened with that kind of success was in 2006 when they won their first eight games of the season. The Pioneers, led by Eric Breitenstein, eventually went 12-3 and reached the state 4-A Western Regional final before falling to West Charlotte.
A berth in the state 4-A regional in 2013 may not necessarily be in the cards, but a 6-0 record is not completely out of the question. The Pioneers travel to take on Fred T. Foard in a Northwestern Conference showdown tonight looking to keep their best winning streak in seven years alive.
"They're handling (success) pretty well," Pioneers coach Ryan Habich said of the Pioneers. "I don't think they're getting overconfident. In practice, they get better each day. They're very coachable kids. I tell the kids don't worry about the record, just look to improve and take one game at a time. We know the competition's going to get pretty stiff pretty soon, so for us to be this young, we can't look where we're at right now. We have to look where we're going."
In the past three games, the Pioneers have been going to the end zone. After squeezing out a 13-7 overtime win over Ashe on Aug. 30, Watauga has outscored three opponents by a combined score of 141-57.
The Pioneers won their first NWC game Sept. 27 when they pasted St. Stephens 42-21. Quarterback Aaron Dobbins threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns, which earned him the school's athlete of the week award.
One game earlier, the Pioneers crushed Wilkes Central 42-0. Two games earlier, they cruised past Avery 57-36.
They face a Foard team that is loaded with problems. The Tigers are coached by Tom Harper, who coached at Hickory last season and at Alexander Central in 2011.
Foard lost its quarterback Matt Williams, who followed Harper to Foard from Hickory, for the season with a knee injury. Williams was the leading passer in the NWC last season with the Red Tornadoes.
Alexander Toy, a sophomore, was forced to play quarterback in place of Williams. Foard has also been outscored 217-48 in its five games this season.
Even with the Tigers' problems, Habich is not taking Foard for granted.
"You have to be careful about that sometimes," Habich said. "Being overconfident and going against a team that is 0-5, a lot of people might be telling our kids some things, and our kids might start believing it. That's how upsets occur."
Foard's running game is led by Jason Schmidt, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee playing basketball in the summer. Schmidt was moved to running back this season.
The Tigers run a spread formation. Schmidt threw for 617 yards and five touchdowns out of the spread last season.
"If we play well, and if we execute the way I think we should execute in all phases of the game, I think we'll like the outcome of the game," Habich said. Foard doesn't have anything to lose. They're a young football team."