By David Coulson. April 22, 2018. BOONE, NC — A little bit of confidence went a long way in changing the fortunes of the High Country Grizzlies Sunday afternoon as the American Arena League indoor football team broke their three-game losing streak by beating the Triangle Torch 38-24 at the Holmes Convocation Center.
All photographic images by Bill Barbour for Blowing Rock News
Badly in need of a victory after losses at home to the Richmond Roughriders (34-19) and on the road to the Cape Fear Heroes (84-12) and the Carolina Energy (87-52), the Grizzlies (1-3) responded on both sides of the ball. On special teams, High Country was perfect on placements after struggling earlier in the season and blocked a field goal and an extra point against the Torch.
The Grizzlies jumped to a 7-0 lead with 5:12 remaining in the first quarter on Darren Daniel’s two-yard TD toss to newcomer Drake White and never trailed the rest of the game. Linebacker Gerod Holliman intercepted two passes to lead a defensive effort that held the Torch attack to 0-of-11 on third down, 2-of-7 on fourth down and minus-14 yards rushing.
Daniel, the veteran quarterback who started his college career with coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and eventually made his way to Alabama State, completed 15-of-36 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns. He also added another score on the ground.
“(At) 0-3 coming in, it was a big win,” said Daniel. “It feels great to get a win. It was still a sloppy game and we have a lot to work on, but a win is a win.”
Daniel’s option run from one yard out extended the High Country lead to 14-6 and despite a breakdown in the secondary that led to two long, first-half TD passes for Torch quarterback Steffen Colon, the Grizzlies added Victor Leventritt’s 43-yard field goal before the half to exit with their 17-12 lead.
With the Torch receiving the second-half kickoff, the Grizzlies held on to that advantage with a defensive stop. Twice, the High Country defense thwarted the Torch at the one-yard line for goal-line stands.
Gerron “Scoobie” Bryant’s amazing one-handed snap of Daniel’s 20-yard TD toss midway through the third period extended the Grizzly edge to 24-12 and the first of two interceptions by linebacker Gerod Holliman was returned for a touchdown to give them their insurmountable 31-12 lead.
“It goes back to watching film and having confidence that everybody is doing their jobs,” said Holliman, who added three tackles to go along with his key interceptions. “We knew the route concepts they were running. Our coaches’ scheme put me in the right place to make plays.”
Former Appalachian State lineman Tyson Fernandez drew big cheers from the crowd with his play on both sides of the line for the Torch (0-3) and the 6-foot-4, 325-pond stalwart received a huge ovation when he carried an injured teammate off the field in the first half. Fernandez also forced Daniel into a big quarterback hurry in the first half.
Another familiar local name, former Avery County High School quarterback Garrett Sutphen, was inactive for the Torch in this game.
High Country coach Scott Meserve saw things his team needs to improve upon, but was pleased with the effort.
“I’ve been preaching for five, or six weeks, playing together,” Meserve said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement. We have to make a run now to make the playoffs.”
The Grizzlies will have a bye next week before returning at home for their May 5 game against the Atlanta Havoc. There will be some familiar faces on the Havoc, including last year’s Grizzly coach Josh Resignalo and former Appalachian State receiving star and last season’s National Arena League rookie of the year Malachi Jones.