By David Rogers. August 17, 2018. ASHEVILLE, NC — A threat of stormy weather had already passed over Asheville Friday night, but that didn’t stop thunder and lighting from striking early and often in Watauga’s impressive, 36-12 win over host T C Roberson.
All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Thunder came in the form of Watauga running back Bryce Satterfield, who hammered away at the Rams’ defense for 142 yards rushing on 25 carries, including TD totes of 18 and 24 yards. On the other side of the ball, Watauga’s defense punished Roberson, limiting the Rams to just 223 yards of total offense. TCR was just 3-for-11 in third-down conversion attempts (27%) on the night.
“It was pretty hard to go up the middle,” Satterfield admitted to Blowing Rock News before going into the visitors’ locker room. “The holes always seemed to be full. Where you saw an opportunity, you had to just hit it. Their defense was pretty good.”
Milking the game clock to keep an opponent’s potent offense off the field may be “old school” football, but it is a strategy that still helps win games even in modern times. Watauga’s 32:26 Time of Possession vs. Roberson’s mere 15:34 explains at least part of the story, the Pioneers’ offense rolling up 444 yards of total offense — 324 of those yards on the ground.
For those unfamiliar with head coach Ryan Habich’s offensive scheme and the Watauga roster of plug ‘n play athletic performers, impending disaster struck on just the second play from scrimmage when WHS junior quarterback Anderson Castle left the game with what appeared to be a fractured left arm or high wrist injury.
But the Pioneer faithful filling the visitors’ grandstands needn’t have worried, even with backup sophomore QB Jackson Harmon on the sidelines — but not in uniform. Habich turned to senior Jackson Greene to take the reins of the offense and to merely say that he responded ably would be an understatement.
Greene shook of any rust to lead an opening offensive possession that burned up almost half of the first quarter off the clock.
A year ago, Greene was entrenched in a battle with Castle for the starting quarterback role up until just before kickoff of the 2017 campaign’s first game. That season opener was also against TC Roberson, but in the friendly confines of Jack Groce Stadium, in Boone. Habich finally tapped Castle on the shoulder as the starter, and the then-sophomore responded by leading the Pioneers to a nailbiter of a 35-34 win, as well as a 10-3 season record and state playoff run into the second round.
With Harmon coming of age as a signal-caller and the presumed backup to Castle in 2018, Greene was focusing on the position he expects to play in college, free safety, his mother explained to Blowing Rock News on the sidelines where she was serving as team photographer.
“Coach Habich asked if I would shoot the game for the team,” Mrs. Greene shared, “but I had no idea I would be shooting my son playing quarterback.”
Among the best athletes on the Pioneer roster, Greene shook off any rust to lead an opening offensive possession that burned almost half of the first quarter off the clock. The 8-play drive culminated with an 18-yard scamper by Satterfield around the left side to give the High Country visitors a lead they would never relinquish.
Directing Habich’s triple-option offense, Greene finished his night’s work by completing 3-of-4 passes for 120 yards and a TD while keeping the ball six times for 26 yards rushing to help keep the Rams’ defense off balance.
Castle’s injury and Green’s stepping up were both on Habich’s mind when he met with reporters after the game.
“He (Castle) will get an x-ray tomorrow,” Habich noted. “We’ll see where he stands and go from there. He’s a tough kid, so if it is hurting that bad you know it is something serious.
“The thing about Jackson Greene,” added Habich, now in his sixth year with Watauga, “is that those two battled last year for the starting quarterback position…I really wasn’t sure who was going to play the position until finally I pulled the trigger with Anderson. He played really well, so Jackson never really got an opportunity to play quarterback. One thing we tried to do in the offseason was try to get Jackson to play wing, so he didn’t get much quarterback work. Our backup quarterback (Harmon) was not dressed out tonight for certain reasons, so Jackson was really the third-string quarterback. He didn’t get (very many) reps in practice, but he knew enough. We didn’t run our whole offense (tonight). We had to keep it pretty simple.”
Our offense is not easy…It’s (QB) reads at the line of scrimmage, calling plays at the line of scrimmage.
Assuming Castle’s injury is a fracture and sidelines him while the arm heals, Habich indicated that Greene will get the nod as QB.
“Now with Jackson going to be the quarterback,” said Habich, “we can get him more reps and run more of our offense.
“Absolutely I am pleased with Jackson’s performance,” Habich admitted. “He is an athlete. Our offense is not easy. It’s not just snap the ball and pitch it. It’s (QB) reads at the line of scrimmage, calling plays at the line of scrimmage. He was not 100% competent on every play, but on the plays that he made he did a good job. Offensively, when I look at the quarterback I look at turnovers. He didn’t turn the football over (through fumbles or throwing interceptions). For not getting any reps during the week of practice and not turn the ball over come gametime in our option offense, he did one heckuva job. Jackson is a natural team leader so I knew he would step up when the time was called.”
Habich was also pleased with the Pioneer defense, noting that the unit “…didn’t give up big plays.”
In the final analysis, Habich said, his team responded in a positive way. “When bad things happen, it is how you respond. I thought our team responded in a good way (to Castle’s injury).”
From the Rams perspective, the final outcome could have been worse. One of the most exciting plays of the night developed with just 1:46 remaining in the first half. Greene dumped a screen pass over onrushing defenders to tight end Eli Suggs waiting near the line of scrimmage, right in front of the Roberson bench. After catching the ball, Suggs sidestepped two would-be tacklers, burst into the open and then outraced the Rams for an apparent 85-yard TD. But the play was called back, a penalty flag had been thrown for what one game official thought was an illegal block in the back to spring Suggs free.
Looking over the shoulder of Watauga assistant coaches on the sideline as they viewed a video replay, it appeared that the “guilty” Pioneer actually tripped and fell, not even touching a Ram defender. Unfortunately, game officials in high school football do not use instant replay. Given the technology available today it is more than likely coming.
Arguably a demoralizing dagger to the heart of Robeson players, coaches and fans alike occurred just before halftime when on 1st-and-10 with just four seconds on the clock when the ball was snapped, Greene faked spikng the ball to stop the clock and instead connected with wide receiver Grant Oliver down the left sideline for a 69 yard pass-catch-and-run for a touchdown.
Watauga next plays at home on Friday, August 24th, 7:30 pm vs. Ashe County. The Huskies opened their season Friday night with a dominating, 50-7 victory in West Jefferson. In last year’s High Country rivalry games, Watauga defeated Ashe 53-21 before humbling Avery, 49-8 under high school football’s “mercy rule.”
SLIDESHOW By David Rogers for Blowing Rock News