By David Rogers. October 11, 2019. BOONE, NC — Host Watauga exploded for 42 unanswered points Friday night at Jack Groce Stadium. An inspired second half defensive effort on Homecoming night allowed the Pioneers to take sole possession of first place in the highly competitive race for the Northwestern Conference title with a convincing, 56-28 win over previously undefeated Hickory.
Castles and kings were the order of the day. Pioneer senior quarterback Anderson Castle was limited to just 30 yards in a mostly grinding first half. Watauga and the Red Tornadoes seemed to follow similar gameplans: the best defense is to keep the other team’s offense off the field, so use up the clock with ball possession.
Keys to the Game
- Watauga’s defensive adjustments at halftime
- Punishing rushing attack by the Pioneers, led by a strong offensive line performance opening holes for QB Anderson Castle and B-Back Jake Watson
- Anderson Castle’s yards gained after initial contact with a defender
But after being crowned “Homecoming King” at halftime, Castle lit up the scoreboard, finishing the night with a game-high 202 yards rushing on 18 carries, and 11.2 yards per carry average, and three tourchdowns. Senior wingback Jaiden Bond turned out to be “Mr. Big Play”, rushing five times for 108 yards (21.6 avg.) and a TD, but it was his 42-yard passing TD bomb to fellow senior Grant Oliver with no time remaining in the first half that evened the score, 21-21, at intermission. Bond’s aerial was the back half of a double-pass, a trick play that energized not only the packed grandstands, but the team as well.
In the first half, both sides’ offenses ran down the field almost at will. Neither defense was able to stop the opposing rushing attack.
Hickory had their own senior rushing star in the form Cody Young, who finished the game with 148 yards on 25 carries and three TDs. Time and again, Young was the point of the spear for the Red Tornadoes — in the first half. The Pioneers’ defensive unit seemed unable to fight their way through blocks and fill the gaps left at the line of scrimmage.
Watauga head coach Ryan Habich explained to reporters after the game that with so many of his players having to go both ways, playing offense and defense, it is especially challenging for defensive coordinator Klay Anderson to make adjustments during the game.
Certainly, whatever adjustments Anderson and his defensive staff made at halftime…worked. After giving up close to 180 yards of net total offense to the Red Tornadoes in the first half, the Pioneers gave up less than 50 net yards in the second half — almost all of it a 46-yard TD run by Young late in the fourth quarter, when the outcome had already been decided.
Next up for the Pioneers (7-1 overall, 3-0 NWC) is a road game on Friday, Oct. 18th, at Hickory-St. Stephens. When the Pioneers last took on the Indians in Hickory, in 2017, St. Stephens helped ruin Watauga’s Northwestern Conference title hopes with a 26-21 upset.
Blowing Rock Newshound “Players of the Game”
- Offense: Anderson Castle (dazzling runs in the second half)
- Defense: Jaiden Bond (two INTs stopped any Hickory momentum, 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL)
- Special Teams: Grant Oliver (kickoff return with 26 seconds remaining in the first half set up the Pioneers with great field position for the one-play, double-pass TD)
SELECTED TEAM STATS
- Total Offense — WAT 500, HKY 225
- Rushing Yards — WAT 444, HKY 151
- Passing Yards — WAT 56, HKY 74
- Interceptions Thrown — WAT 0. HKY 2
- Fumbles Lost — WAT 0, HKY 0
- Penalties — WAT 3-20, HKY 6-45
- Defensive Sacks-Yards — WAT 2-12, HKY 0-0
- Time of Possession — WAT 25:39, HKY 22:09
- 3rd Down Conversions — WAT 1/1 (100%), HKY 6-10 (60%)
- 4th Down Conversions — WAT 0/0 (0%), HKY 2/2 (100%)
SELECTED INDIVIDUAL STATS
- HKY — Gage Lackey 8-17-74, 1 TD, 2 INTs
- WAT — Jaiden Bond 1-1-42, 1 TD
- WAT — Anderson Castle 2-2-14
- WAT — Anderson Castle 18-202, 3 TDs
- HKY — Cody Young 25-148, 3 TDs
- WAT — Jaiden Bond 5-108, 1 TD
- WAT — Jake Watson 14-85, 2 TDs
- WAT — Sebastian Best 3-28, 1 TD
- WAT — Carter Everett, 2-21
- WAT — Grant Oliver 1-42, 1 TD
- HKY — Lane Logan 3-30, 1 TD
- HKY — Tristan Rankin 2-25
- WAT — Jaiden Bond 1-13
WATAUGA DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHTS
- Jaiden Bond — 9 tackles (7 solo), 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 INTs
- Jake Watson — 5.5 tackles (3 solo), 1.5 TFL
- Isaiah Shirley — 3.5 tackles (2 solo), 1 sack, 1 TFL