Watauga escapes with 13-7 victory
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
WEST JEFFERSON -- Watauga's 13-7 victory over border-rival Ashe is proof that the team that piles up the most yards doesn't necessarily pile up the most points.
Ashe (0-2) outgained Watauga 313-150 in total offense. The Huskies' 161 yards rushing dwarfed Watauga's 31 yards gained on 23 carries.
The Huskies even outgained Watauga in passing yards 152-119.
But Watauga outgained Ashe 10-4 in the overtime period, and that was what mattered most. Watauga's Zach Williams scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down in overtime to give the Pioneers the victory.
"We're a young football team and when you have a big win like last week -- and we have some injuries and we're still kind of injured in the 'B' back position; Zach came back a little bit and we had a new quarterback -- you try to find something that they can do best," Pioneers coach Ryan Habich said. "We're still not blocking well up front and we're still not running the football. We're not executing the way we need to execute offensively."
The Pioneers were at a disadvantage without starting quarterback Aaron Dobbins, who was held out because of a concussion he suffered a week earlier in a 34-12 victory over Alexander Central. Williams was also still feeling the effects of a high ankle sprain, but played most of the game anyway.
That decision paid off at the end of the game. Williams scored the touchdown after the Watauga defense held Ashe scoreless on its overtime possession. The Huskies' possession died on the Watauga 6-yard line when quarterback Conner Bowers' pass to the end zone fell incomplete.
"I had a hard time running the ball tonight, but that last part -- my (offensive) line gave me a huge hole in that last part," Williams said.
It was the only touchdown Ashe's defense would yield the entire game. In the first 48 minutes of play, Watauga's lone touchdown was an 80-yard touchdown interception return by T.J. Poulos with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
Poulos stepped in front of a Bowers pass and rolled up the Watauga sideline for the score. Stephen Shirley's extra point gave the Pioneers a 7-0 lead.
Ashe tested Watauga's bend-but-don't-break defense to the limit several times, but broke through to the end zone just once. Matthew Hamilton capped a 13-play, 61-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:44 left in the first half.
Cesar Ruiz, who was borrowed from the Huskies' soccer team, kicked the extra point and tied the game 7-7.
Hamilton led all rushers with 125 yards on 21 carries. Hamilton did not lose a yard the entire game.
Williams led the Pioneers with 22 yards rushing on 11 carries. Watauga moved the ball better by passing, but quarterbacks Austin Northern and Poulos completed 8-of-21 passes for 119 yards and two interceptions.
Several passes were thrown deep with the idea of allowing receiver Cam Baker to out-jump the Ashe secondary and make a catch. Baker finished with four receptions for 60 yards.
"We're going to try to find something that works," Habich said. "We weren't really protection well inside and it was an easier throw for our quarterback to throw instead of 1-2-3 short."
Both teams saw potential scoring drives fizzle in the second half. Watauga's first drive in the third quarter started at the Ashe 47-yard line, but stalled at the Ashe 5-yard line. The Pioneers missed a field goal, which kept the game tied 7-7.
Ashe went next by driving to the Watauga 19-yard line, but the Huskies also missed a field goal. Ashe also drove the Watauga 10-yard line after starting at the Pioneers' 47-yard line, but missed another field goal.
"We do everything great until we get down there and that's got to be my fault," Ashe coach Brian Hampton said. "I told the guys that I'll take full responsibility for us not scoring in the red zone. It's obvious that the stuff works until we get down there."
Watauga has a bye next Friday, while Ashe plays at R.J. Reynolds.
Watauga 13, Ashe 7
Watauga 7 0 0 0 6 -- 13
Ashe 0 7 0 0 0 -- 7
Scoring by quarters
WHS--Poulos 80 interception return (Shirley kick)
AHS--Hamilton 1 run (Ruiz kick)
WHS--Williams 1 run
First downs 10 19
Rushes-yards 23-31 52-161
Passing yards 119 152
Passes 8-21-2 15-26-1
Total plays-yards 44-150 78-313
Penalties-yards 4-30 9-55
Punts-avg. 3-30.3 1-30.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Time of poss. 17:53 30:00
Rushing: Watauga--Williams 11-22, Poulos 8-10, northern 3-3, Ford 1-(-4); Ashe--Hamilton 21-125, Barnes 16-39, Miller 5-12, Ashley 3-10.
Passing: Watauga--Northern 7-18-2 93, Poulos 1-2-0 26; Ashe--Bowers 15-26-1 152
Receiving: Watauga--Baker 4-60, Poulos 2-14, Ford 1-32, Isaacs 1-13; Ashe--Lucas 6-79, Ashley 4-25, Worley 2-27, McNeill 2-17.