Two rivals will meet on the gridiron this Friday, each team battling early-season injuries to key players.
Ashe will host its first game of the season with the Watauga Pioneers making the short drive over from Boone.
It appears that the Huskies will be without starting tailback Jonathan Cox for a second straight game, trying to recover from an injury sustained in the first scrimmage of the season.
The injury bug has also made a trip to Boone as Pioneer starting quarterback Aaron Dobbins is expected to miss this contest. Dobbins had an outstanding start to his season, completing five of his six pass attempts for 111 yards and three touchdowns last week in a victory over Alexander Central. Dobbins left the game after the first quarter.
Watauga will turn to backup quarterback Austin Northern. The six-foot junior came in after Dobbins’ injury last week and tossed two more touchdown passes to go along with 113 yards.
For Ashe, Connor Bowers had an impressive game at North Surry last week with 217 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. The Huskies hope to get the running game going this week. Hunter Barnes and Matthew Hamilton saw several carries last week, but could not find any running room to help the junior quarterback out.
Defensively, the Huskies held its own through most of the game, but a pair of big runs late in the second half by the Greyhounds turned out to be what doomed the Huskies. Up front, the defensive line did an outstanding job of limiting the running plays up the middle, and the linebackers held their own on the outside until later in the game, particularly after senior starter Alex Laws left the contest with an injury.
Both teams have a bevy of outside playmakers to turn to. Ashe’s Maison McNeill reeled in five passes last week for 132 yards and a touchdown. One of last year’s leading receivers, Jacob Blevins, got off to a slow start in the first game, but should be another target for Bowers to find.
Watauga has a trio of speedsters to make plays in the passing game. Junior T.J. Poulos, sophomore Michael Ebaugh and senior Cameron Baker will be sure to test the Husky secondary. Baker had four catches for 115 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars while Ebaugh had 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns and Poulos had three catches for 39 yards.
Kickoff for the game is set for 7:30 p.m., but the gates will open at 4:30 p.m. for the inaugural NFL Tailgate Tour, sponsored by Skyline. Fans can enjoy several pregame festivities at the stadium before the game begins.