By David Coulson. April 1, 2017. BOONE, NC — The High Country Grizzlies followed up last week’s heartbreaking, home-opening loss with one of the most dominating wins in the history of arena football history, crushing the Dayton Wolfpack 94-6 Saturday night at the Holmes Convocation Center.
All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
The carnage began early and the expansion Wolfpack never stopped the damage as ex-Appalachian State receiver Malachi Jones pulled in four touchdown passes and linebacker Jimmy Legree snagged four of the Grizzlies’ eight interceptions.
“I scored more touchdowns in this game tonight than I did in two of my (full) seasons at App,” Jones laughed afterwards. “Our offensive line did a great job tonight. Our defense played phenomenal.”
Dayton was held scoreless until the 4:08 mark of the 4th quarter.
Defensive back Brandon Fuentes suffered through a disastrous game in last week’s 48-42 loss at home to the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, but had three interceptions against Dayton and took two of them “to the house” for TDs in the National Arena League contest.
“You have those (bad) games, you have those days,” said Fuentes. “You have to have a short memory.”
In all, High Country (2-1) returned four of those eight interceptions back for touchdowns. The fledgling indoor gridders started their scoring with Cody Starett’s 12-yard return of a blocked, 43-yard field goal attempt. It was Dayton’s hope to salvage the game’s opening offensive possession with an FG, but it turned into the start of a scoring avalanche for the home side as Starett waltzed into the end zone for the game’s first TD.
Legree and former ASU All-American Dexter Jackson were credited with the other defensive touchdowns.
“We wanted to try and score 100,” said Grizzly coach Josh Resignalo. “If you score 90-something points, no one is going to beat you. We wanted to keep the foot on the pedal.”
High County led 15-0 after running just one offensive play in the first quarter and expanded the lead to 62-0 with a 40-point explosion in the second period. Dayton was held scoreless until the 4:08 mark of the fourth stanza.
We just tried to send a message to the rest of the league.
The Grizzly defense made that nearly happen with an overwhelming performance from the first play fro scrimmage to the final gun. High Country limited the beleaguered Wolfpack to some of the ugliest offensive stats that the crowd — estimated at about 1,000 fans — could have possibly witnessed.
Dayton (0-3) managed just 16 yards passing, completing only 5-of-29 attempts as quarterbacks Terez Wilkins and James Moreland were under pressure on nearly every play. The Wolfpack didn’t fare much better on the ground, with only 55 yards, and was penalized 10 times for 102 yards of losses.
“It didn’t matter who was in front of us,” defensive lineman Brandon Sutton said on an evening when the Grizzlies registered 10 sacks for 48 yards of losses. “We feel like we have the best defensive line in the league.”
With the Grizzly defense setting the tone early, the High Country offense was a picture of efficiency for most of the game. Quarterback Stephen Panasuk completed 15-of-24 passes for 138 yards and seven touchdowns and didn’t throw an interception on a night where the Grizzlies held a 9-0 advantage in turnovers.
“Winning is always great,” said Panasuk. “We just tried to send a message to the rest of the league.”
With a game on the schedule next Sunday against league-leading Jacksonville (3-0), the Grizzlies will not have long to enjoy their first home victory. The game at the Holmes Center starts at 3:30 p.m.
“We will celebrate tonight and then get back to work on Sunday,” said Jones. “We’re getting ready for Jacksonville. If we do what we know we can do, we can compete with anyone.”