The Huskies and Pioneers added another chapter to the High Country rivalry with the first overtime game in Ashe County High School history.
Watauga’s Zach Williams scored the game-winning touchdown in OT to help Watauga go to 2-0 with a 13-7 win.
The Pioneers grabbed an early lead with 2:28 left in the first quarter when T.J. Poulos intercepted a pass from Connor Bowers and returned it for an 80-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Ashe tied the score up with 8:35 left in the second quarter. Matthew Hamilton capped off a long scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge. Cesar Ruiz connected on the extra point.
A Husky punting miscue with 5:42 left in the second quarter set Watauga up with good field position at Ashe’s 20 yard-line.
The defense stood tall with Hamilton snagging an interception in the end zone just over a minute later to end the Pioneer drive. The score remained deadlocked at 7-7 at the half.
At the 5:09 mark of the third quarter, Watauga looked to be in good position to take the lead. However, the Ashe defense stormed through the line on a 21-yard field goal attempt and got a hand on the ball to force the kick wide.
The Huskies drove down inside the 20, but with 1:02 left in the third, a 36-yard field goal by Ruiz came up short.
After forcing another Pioneer punt, Ashe’s offense was on the move again. Hamilton continued to be the workhorse on the ground while Bowers found tight end Bradley Lucas a couple of different times to put Ashe inside the redzone yet again.
With 9:36 left in the game, a 25-yard field goal attempt from Ruiz was blocked, ending another chance to take the lead.
Watauga could not do any better with its final two drives of the fourth quarter. The Pioneers turned the ball over on downs with 5:54 left and threw an interception to Michael Elliott with 29 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Ashe got the ball first, but was unable to do anything. On fourth down, Bowers tossed a pass towards the endzone, but the ball was too far outside for the receiver to grab.
That’s when the Pioneer ground attack came to life inside the 10. Four straight running plays culminated with the one-yard TD run by Williams for the win.
Watauga has now beaten Ashe for 12 consecutive seasons.
This game was truly a hard-luck loss. Ashe out-gained the Pioneers, 313 yards to 150 yards, and ran 35 more offensive plays.
Hamilton gained 125 yards on 21 carries and had the lone Ashe touchdown. Hunter Barnes carried the ball 16 times for 43 yards and Keith Miller added five carries for 14 yards.
Bowers was 15-26 passing for 152 yards and an interception.
Lucas led Ashe in receiving with six catches for 79 yards. Cullen Ashley added four grabs for 25 yards, Jacob Worley had two catches for 27 yards and Maison McNeill had two catches for 17 yards.
Defensively, Jacob Blevins had 7.5 tackles. The defense was very strong against the run, allowing the Pioneers just 31 total rushing yards.
Pioneer QB Austin Northern struggled with the passing attack, completing just seven of 18 passes for 93 yards and two interceptions.
Head coach Brian Hampton took the loss squarely on his shoulders.
“I’m a firm believer that kids don’t lose games, I lose games. I’ve got to do better in the redzone. It’s the same thing this week as it was last week. I just told them right there that I’m 0-2, I’ve got to find something to work better in the redzone,” said Hampton. “I’ve never been prouder of a group of kids. I would go to battle with them anywhere.”
Overall, the defense was one of the biggest factors in the game, something that the coaching staff has been very excited about.
“If our defense continues to play like this, we’re going to have chances to win every week,” said Coach Hampton.
The tough schedule of games continues with a trip to R.J. Reynolds high school this week before hosting Hibriten in two weeks. This tough schedule should benefit the team later in the season.
“We’re playing some good teams, and when it comes time, we’re going to hang a banner, we’ve just got to continue to keep working,” said Hampton.