Pioneers use strong second half to top Avery
by Jamie Shell
Making matters worse for both Avery and Watauga was the loss of key players in the game due to injuries. Avery's Tre Jackson was shaken up on two separate occasions, the latter of which occurred due to a concussion suffered early in the third quarter and forced the sophomore quarterback out of the game.
"Losing Tre really changed our game plan," said Vikings head football coach Darrell Brewer said. "It forced us out of the spread. We had to run the ball, instead. Then we turned the ball over on our first two possessions to start the third quarter. It forced us to defend a short field, and they took advantage of it.
But I'm proud of our kids. They played hard."
Watauga also lost its own playmaker as running back Collin Augustine suffered a broken collarbone following a sideline tackle during a second-half touchdown drive.
"I really hate it for him," Watauga head coach Tom Wright said following the diagnosis. "It just breaks my heart. He gives us everything he's got everyday in practice. He was destined for a big season. But things like this happen sometimes. It's a tough situation for him, and for us, because he means so much to our team."
"I'm sorry to hear Collin got hurt," Brewer added. "He's a great player, and he's a great person. It's a big loss for Watauga, and I really hate it for him."
The teams played through a scoreless first quarter before a Pioneers turnover gave the pigskin to the Big Red near the WHS 20-yard line. Six plays later, Vikings senior running back Luke Childress scored on a four-yard rumble. The conversion attempt failed, leaving Avery with a 6-0 lead with 7:48 left to play in the first half.
Another storyline weaved its way throughout the first half and entire contest, as the teams combined for 241 yards on 28 penalties. An athletic tip and interception on a Watauga screen pass by Avery sophomore Austin Phillips gave the Vikings a prime opportunity late in the first half. The pick was one of five WHS turnovers on the night, and AHS capitalized with another Childress four-yard tote with just 22 seconds to play in the first half. Avery's two-point conversion attempt failed, giving the Vikings the 12-0 lead at halftime.
The final two quarters proved a case of "different half, different story," as virtually everything that could go wrong for the Vikings did go wrong. Avery turned the football over four times in the second half, including three fumbles.
Meanwhile, the Pioneers found its offensive rhythm, taking advantage of the AHS mistakes to score 35 points (including the final 21 points of the game) to seize control of the contest.
Watauga scored on its second possession of the third quarter, marching 23 yards in four plays following a Childress fumble. T.J. Poulos intercepted Avery quarterback Jackson on Avery's ensuing offensive series, returning the ball to the Avery eight-yard line. Four plays later, WHS had the lead as Nick Williams scored on a one-yard plunge, staking the Pioneers to a 14-12 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings punted on its next series, but caught a break when WHS muffed the punt reception. Avery recovered the football at the Pioneers 12-yard line and scored two plays later when backup quarterback Stetson Stafford hit Phillips for an eight-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion run by Childress succeeded, putting AHS back on top 20-14.
Any momentum gained by Avery from the score disappeared quickly when Poulus returned the ensuing kickoff 61 yards into Avery territory. Three plays later, WHS quarterback Tripp Taylor scrambled for a seven-yard score. The extra point put the Pioneers ahead 21-20 after three periods.
Watauga stopped the Avery offense on its first series of the final stanza, then scored on its third straight possession, a six-play, 40-yard drive capped by a two-yard Jimmie Accardi touchdown run with 7:48 to play.
AHS continued to shoot itself in the foot as a fumble two plays into its next possession turned the ball back over to WHS, who took advantage three plays later when Poulos scored on a four-yard run, providing for the final 35-20 margin.
Avery was paced by 61 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Childress, while the Vikings managed only 57 yards on 7-of-15 passing. Augustine led WHS with 78 rushing yards on 11 attempts, with Taylor completing 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and two interceptions.
The teams combined for nine turnovers and were a combined 4-for-17 on third down conversions.
Watauga reclaimed the golden bucket trophy while snapping a two-game losing streak to AHS and extended its advantage in the overall series to 31-13-1.
Avery (2-1) looks to regroup next week when it hosts McDowell, while Watauga (2-1) hosts West Caldwell.