By David Rogers. November 18, 2017. WINSTON-SALEM, NC — Upstart #8 seeded Watauga rolled up almost 100 more yards (320) of total offense than host (and #1 seeded) Mt. Tabor (222) in the second round of the North Carolina 3AA championship tournament, but could not overcome three turnovers in losing to the Spartans, 21-14, before a large and raucous crowd at Bob Sapp Field.
SLIDESHOW AT BOTTOM
COVER IMAGE: This pass reception (Anderson Castle to Phillip Shukis) along the right sideline was ruled incomplete, but as this photo suggests the call could have gone either way. Questions that cannot be answered from the photo: Did his left foot step out of bounds before he caught it, making him an ineligible receiver? Did he have control of the ball before he went out of bounds? All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
It was a crisp, cool and clear autumn evening on the outskirts of Winston-Salem Friday night, nary a cloud in the sky, but a lightening bolt struck across the field early when the Pioneers’ sophomore running back Bryce Satterfield raced around the left side and down the Mt. Tabor sideline 61 yards on the second play from scrimmage on the game’s opening possession. A play later, Satterfield punched the ball across from the 4-yard line for the opening salvo of a touchdown, giving the High Country visitors a 7-0 lead after Kyran Densham’s successful PAT.
And that score held up for less than a minute shy of three full quarters, as the the match-up of #1 and #8 tournament seeds evolved as a defensive battle par excellence. While Watauga pounded the ball mostly up the middle on Satterfield carries for first down after first down, taking time off the clock and keeping the Spartans’ very athletic offense off the field, through most of the first half — when they made an appearance — Mt. Tabor used a range of horizontal passes, trying to get running backs into space, only to be thwarted by the Pioneers’ swarming defense.
Mt. Tabor made two adjustments during this game, and both paid off.
Spartans head coach Tiesuan Brown admitted to Blowing Rock News after the game that they had watched a good amount of film on the Pioneers beforehand.
“On that first Watauga offensive possession,” he noted, “we had two defensive players that missed assignments. We corrected that.”
The second Mt. Tabor adjustment was on offense. Instead of the horizontal passing game, which had quarterback Kedrick Patterson passing to junior running back Zyquez Mcmillian or senior wide receiver Jayland Moore behind the line of scrimmage looking for space in front of them (which the Pioneers largely countered), the Spartans moved to more of a power sweep offense, attacking the perimeter with Mcmillian or junior wide receiver Jaquan Albright with blockers in front of them.
On their first possession of the third quarter, the new offensive formula proved itself when Mcmillian steadily moved the chains with runs of 16, 6, 15, 8, and 4 yards, getting the ball to the Watauga 11 before Albright finished things off for the Spartans’ first touchdown to even things up at 7-7 (with Aaron Muse’s successful PAT).
From that point, Watauga miscues (two fumbles) and Mt. Tabor’s strong defensive effort against an apparently tiring Pioneer eleven — many of whom were playing both ways while Mt. Tabor was platooning offense and defense — led to the Spartans taking command.
While the Pioneers still showed an abundance of grit on both sides of the ball, injuries and leg cramps began to take their toll, even while Mt. Tabor was winning the battle for field position. The Spartans manufactured a scoring drive late in the third quarter that culminated with a Patterson touchdown to put the home team on top for the first time, 14-7, and just 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter. They scored again with 10:15 to go in the game on another Patterson keeper to expand the advantage to 21-7.
Clock winding down, Watauga had one more trick up its sleeve. After Watauga methodically worked its way upfield to the Spartan 20, Pioneer sophomore quarterback Anderson Castle handed off to senior wide receiver Jackson Greene on an apparent jet sweep, but instead Castle looped to the right and drifted into the end zone. Greene spun in the backfield and lofted a tight spiral in the direction of the right corner. Castle was blanketed by three Mt. Tabor defenders, but when one of them poked the ball skyward, Castle was there to make the catch when it descended for the touchdown.
Mt. Tabor, for the most part, played error-free ball, at least in the form of turnovers. The lone exception was as the Spartans were driving at the end of the half to an apparent score, but Watauga’s Jaidon Bond stepped in front of a Patterson pass along the north sideline for the interception, which allowed the jubilant Pioneers to go into the locker room for intermission with its still tenuous, 7-0 lead.
Remarkably, given his injured arm, Satterfield carried the ball 26 times for 206 yards and one touchdown. Castle toted the pigskin 14 times for 42 yards, while completing four of nine passes for 42 yards and had one pass reception for a touchdown.
Blowing Rock News’ vote for the most under-utilized player of the game is Mt. Tabor’s senior tight end, Blake Whiteheart. Listed at 6-4, 235 lbs., Whiteheart only caught one pass for 11 yards, but required multiple Pioneers to bring him down. Very athletic, we learned after the game that while he committed to Wake Forest in March, this 3-star recruit (24/7 Sports) also received offers from Appalachian State, Colorado State, Old Dominion, and Southern Mississippi.
Looking back at the entire season, here are some cumulative statistical highlights for Watauga, as compiled by Jonathan Watson, a mathematics teacher at Watauga High School:
DEFENSIVE, CUMULATIVE (13 games)
- Eli Suggs tallied 52.5* total tackles (30 solo) and 3.5* quarterback sacks. He also recorded 7,5 tackles for loss, one pass breakup
- Jackson Greene was close behind with 52 tackles (35* solo), 2 tackles for loss and 5 pass breakups, 3* interceptions
- Ben Critcher had 47 total tackles (26 solo), 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss
- Zach West had 40.5 total tackles (21 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, and 8 pass breakups, 1 interception
- Phillip Shukis had 37 total tackles (21 solo), 1 sack, 8 tackles for loss
- Josh Headlee had 35 total tackles (14 solo), 1 sack, 7 tackles for loss and 1 pass breakup
- Jaidon Bond recorded 35 total tackles (23 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss and 8 pass breakups, 2 interceptions
- Alex McConnell accounted for 31.5 total tackles (19 solo), 2 sacks, 10.5* tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup
- Grant Oliver was responsible for 31 total tackles (22 solo), 1 tackle for loss, 9* pass breakups, 1 interception
OFFENSIVE CUMULATIVE (13 games)
- Anderson Castle: 184 carries, 1,456 yards, 23 TDs
- Bryce Satterfield: 198 carries, 1,447 yards, 25 TDs
- Jaidon Bond: 53 carries, 696 yards, 4 TDs
- Ben Critcher: 51 carries, 288 yards, 6 TDs
- Zach West: 24 carries, 266 yards, 5 TDs
- Jackson Greene: 9 carries, 105 yards, 1 TD
- Eli Suggs: 7 carries, 30 yards
- Grant Oliver: 2 carries, 24 yards
- Anderson Castle: 47-of-89, 890 yards, 9 TDs, 3 INTs (QBR: 163.4)
- Jackson Greene: 6-10, 141 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs (QBR: 244.4)
- Jaidon Bond: 25 receptions, 452, 3 TDs
- Zach West: 10, 236, 2 TDs
- Phillip Shukis: 7, 153, 2 TDs
- Jamie Gough: 4, 75, 1 TD
- Bryce Satterfield: 5, 60, 1 TD
- Grant Oliver: 1, 35, 1 TD
- Anderson Castle: 1, 20, 1 TD
SLIDESHOW By David Rogers for Blowing Rock News