Ashe County Middle School and Central Wilkes battled through four quarters of play for the league championship on Saturday, but it would be Central that came away with the 38-24 victory.
The Bulldogs hit the ground running with Tristen Jones, Matt Greer, Dante Shuler and Judd Price all pounding the Central Wilkes defense in the first quarter. Shuler powered across the goal line for a four-yard touchdown run. Colin Ellis converted the two-point conversion, giving the Bulldogs the early edge, 8-0.
On Central’s next possession, tailback Justin Parsons fumbled after he was hit hard by Ashe defender Chris Bledsoe. Jones recovered the fumble to put an end to a good first quarter for the Bulldogs
The second quarter started with a bang as Ellis found Chris Lonidier for a 26-yard touchdown. Ellis completed the two-point play with a pass to Ethan Cox which gave Ashe a two touchdown advantage.
After a pair of turnovers on downs, Central got on the board with a 60-yard TD run from Parsons. The two-point play was good, making the score 16-8.
Central would not be satisfied with just one touchdown in the first half. Parsons picked off a pass from Ellis and returned the ball down to the Bulldog 12-yard line. Central quarterback JoJo Horton eventually capped off the drive with a three-yard TD run. The game was tied 16-16 at the end of the first half.
Ashe made the first big play of the second half. Matt Greer flew in and forced a Central Wilkes fumble on an attempted reverse play. Calder Clay was there to scoop up the fumble at Central’s 40-yard line.
The Bulldogs went right back to the power running game. After runs from Jones, Shuler and Ellis, Price put the ball into the end zone on an option pitch from Ellis. The two-point play was good, and the Bulldogs were back in front 24-16 with 6:46 left in the third quarter.
Central quickly tied things up after Parsons broke two long runs, and Horton finished the drive with a 27-yard TD run to tie things up at 24-24.
With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Central made the big plays and even had a little luck down the stretch to get the victory. Horton reeled off a 65-yard touchdown run, and then tossed a 15-yard TD pass that was tipped by Clay right into the hands of a waiting Central receiver.
Needing two scores to tie the game, the Bulldogs had to go to the air. However, a pass from Ellis was intercepted, and Central Wilkes was able to run out the clock to win the title.
The Bulldogs finished with a 7-2 record, and an appearance in the title game for the second straight year.