By Luke Weir. September 29, 2017. TAYLORSVILLE, NC — Two dozen motorcycles rumbled around the track at Alexander Central’s Cougar Stadium in Taylorsville Friday night, setting the decibel-level for a roaring football game with visiting Watauga that was decided, 38-33, on a home team defensive stop in the final seconds.
COVER IMAGE: Alexander Central’s Bryson Godfrey looks for space around left end. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
By the time the motorcycles rattled out of the stadium and players lined up for kickoff, fans along the packed home stands and on the well represented Watauga side echoed the bikes’ thunderous reverberation and sustained the noise throughout the night.
Whether the visiting Pioneers were intimidated by the Cougars’ motorcycle gang or not, both teams seemingly sensed the significance of their 52nd meeting. Watauga and Alexander Central, both 5-0 coming into Friday’s contest, battled into the final minute of the 3A Northwestern Conference’s premier matchup of the weekend.
Alexander Central’s burly offensive line, whose starters weighed an average of roughly 269 pounds, had their way with Watauga’s young defense early. The Cougars, with a run-heavy scheme, scored in each of their first three possessions to start the game.
“Alexander had a huge advantage on both the offensive and defensive lines against us, but our kids kept fighting,” Watauga head coach Ryan Habich told reporters after the game.
The Pioneers’ fifth year mentor said he was impressed with his team’s display of “grit” in not giving up against the larger, more experienced Cougars.
“When you have nine sophomores playing varsity ball, six of them on offense and four on defense, we’re going to make mistakes,” Habich noted. “We made too many mistakes to beat a good football team.”
Our kids didn’t give up.
Habich’s assessment that mistakes plagued the Pioneers was accurate. Watauga turned the ball over for the first time this season with several bad snaps, sketchy handoffs and wobbly laterals that put the ball on the turf three times. They only lost one of the fumbles, but the others were drive killers.
A quartet of Cougar rushers scored touchdowns in leading Alexander Central to a seemingly insurmountable lead at 32-19 with a little more than five minutes to go in the third quarter and giving the hosts momentum.
Big plays seemed to be the order of the day for ACHS, highlighted by a 38-yard TD carry by running back Bryson Godfrey early in the second quarter, and a 29 yard run by RB Devon Weiss with less than a minute to go in the opening half.
While the young Watauga defense struggled to stop the Cougar juggernaut, the Pioneer offense was making big plays of its own to keep the visitors in the game. Sophomore wingback Jaiden Bond’s 27-yard scamper in the waning seconds of the first half narrowed the Watauga deficit to just a touchdown.
After the intermission in which Alexander Central inducted new members into the school’s Hall of Fame, Watauga rallied on the strength of impressive defensive stops. The Cougars scored first in the second half, midway through the third quarter, but Watauga found paydirt twice in the final stanza to actually take the lead, 33-32, with 2:37 left to play.
That proved to be too much time to leave on the clock for the high-powered Alexander Central eleven.
It took only a little more than a minute for Alexander Central to respond, culminating with senior wide receiver Kendall Flowers burning the Watauga secondary on 3rd-and-4 for a 46-yard touchdown catch-and-carry from quarterback Gunnar Anderson.
Watauga’s fate was in their own hands as they took the field with 80 seconds to play deep in their own territory, but the offense sputtered under Alexander Central’s defensive pressure in crunch time, and with no remaining timeouts.
The Pioneers’ sophomore QB Anderson Castle finished with two touchdowns on 14-20 passing and 172 yards through the air. He also ran for 29 yards and a determined 4th quarter touchdown that seemed to spark Watauga. Sophomore running back Bryce Satterfield’s number was called 11 times for 53 yards, including the touchdown that tied the game at 32-all before placekicker Justin Simmons PAT. Satterfield also snagged two receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore Jaiden Bond also ran into the end zone for a touchdown in addition to his 7 catches and 97 receiving yards, while Phillip Shukis’ one catch of the game counted for a 13-yard TD in the second quarter.
For Alexander Central, Anderson completed an efficient 11 out of 13 pass attempts for 171 yards and two TDs. He also ran 10 times for a net of 68 and one touchdown. Senior running back Devon Weiss carried 20 times for 127 yards net and one touchdown. The Cougars tandem of senior wideouts Bryson Godfrey (5 catches) and Kendall Flowers (4) hauled in Anderson aerials for 83 and 80 yards, respectively.
“Our kids didn’t give up,” Habich concluded. “We didn’t play well. We made a lot of mistakes. The one thing we will say about our kids is they have some grit.”
SLIDESHOW By David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
SELECTED GAME STATS (CLICK TO ENLARGE)