In the first game of the Brian Hampton coaching era, the Huskies held off a resilient West Caldwell team to score a 20-14 win away on Friday, Aug. 17.
Ashe found the endzone quickly in the first quarter with the first touchdown of the season coming through the air from quarterback Eli Gambill. The senior found Matthew Hamilton streaking down field for a 56-yard touchdown. Anthony Federico converted the extra point, putting Ashe in front 7-0 early in the first quarter.
Neither team did much the rest of the quarter, but eventually, West Caldwell found the equalizing touchdown before the half. The Warriors blocked a punt, which set up a 10-yard touchdown run from Aaron Rowe to tie the score at 7-7.
The Warriors had a golden opportunity to take the lead late in the third quarter, but a fumble put an end to a promising drive on the Husky eight-yard line. Senior Hawkens Flanagan was there to scoop up the fumble and end the Warrior drive.
Ashe marched the ball down the field and ran into a wall inside the West Caldwell five-yard line. Ashe converted not one, but two fourth down plays to finally get a one-yard TD run from Gambill. The extra point was good, and the Huskies were back on top, 14-7.
On the very next Warrior possession, the Ashe defense forced yet another big turnover. Senior Kolten Pilar picked off an errant pass from quarterback David Denison, and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was missed, but the Huskies had extended its lead to 13 points at 20-7.
West Caldwell kept battling, and drove the ball down the field to pull within one score after Robert Caldwell punched in a one-yard TD run, making the score 20-14.
Instead of electing to use the onside kick, West Caldwell chose to kick the ball deep and try to get a quick three-and-out. However, the Ashe offense wasn’t having any of that as the ground game picked up a first down to run the clock out and hold on for the win.
Gambill finished the game with 105 rushing yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. The senior also completed three passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Hamilton led the way with one catch for 56 yards. Sophomore wideout Jacob Blevins chipped in with two catches for 16 yards.
Defensively, Michael Elliott had a big day with eight tackles, including one tackle for a three-yard loss. Dominic Maxwell and Carson Knight each added seven tackles, Flanagan finished with six takedowns, Justin Scarborough had five while Cox and Hamilton each added four tackles.
Up next for the Huskies will be a battle with the rival Pioneers. Ashe is hoping to snap a losing streak that dates back 10 seasons. Ashe last beat the Pioneers in 2001, a 14-7 win at home. Watauga is coming off of a 31-point loss at AC Reynolds in the season opener.West Caldwell will turn its attention to rival South Caldwell in its next game.