By David Rogers. August 23, 2019. BOONE, NC — It started with an exclamation point and finished with a “Hoorah!”.
COVER IMAGE: Watauga junior wingback Sebastian Best (14, with ball), with blockers in front, picks up big yardage around the left side. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Watauga took advantage of a punishing offensive rushing attack and two Asheville-T C Roberson turnovers in just the first quarter to pummel the Rams, 51-20, in the 2019 high school football season opener at Jack Groce Stadium.
For the Pioneer student section, it was “Cowboy Night” and their beloved gladiators of the gridiron didn’t disappoint. Watauga lassoed, hogtied, booted and bucked-off the Rams, turning them every which way but loose. In the eyes of TCR, the Pioneers were befitting of a Clint Eastwood movie: good in their execution, bad to the bone, and ugly to behold if trying to play defense against them.
The head referee hardly had enough time to put back in his pocket the silver dollar he used for the coin flip before Watauga senior running back Bryce Satterfield found daylight down the left sideline and outraced all Roberson defenders to paydirt. It was the very first play of the 2019 season and just 15 seconds had ticked off the game clock when Satterfield sprinted across the TCR goal line. For the Pioneer faithful packing the north grandstands, it was a thing of beauty. To the handful of Ram supporters who had made the trip from Asheville, it was a stunner.
Keys to the Game
- Watauga’s control of possession with a punishing rushing attack
- Roberson turnovers, including one lost fumble and one INT
- Anderson Castle’s 325 total yards, 206 rushing (4 TDs) and 119 passing
- Bryce Satterfield’s 275 total yards, 170 rushing, 3 receiving and 102 return yards
- Stifling Watauga defense
As it turned out, the Pioneers were only just getting started. With 4:16 left in the first quarter, Watauga quarterback Anderson Castle pushed into the end zone for a 3-yard TD, capitalizing on a Grant Oliver interception just moments before.
Then, after junior defensive back Sebastian Best recovered a Roberson fumble, Castle punched the ball off left tackle to the TCR 18-yard line. As the senior QB was being taken to the ground, he spied a solitary Satterfield trailing to his left along the sideline and popped it in his direction. An alert Satterfield swooped in to pluck it and tuck it, the versatile B-back sprinting the remaining distance for the Pioneers’ third TD. Add in sophomore placekicker Carter Everett’s successful PATs on all three touchdowns and Watauga had stampeded to a convincing, 21-0 lead — with still 3:17 left in the first quarter.
Castle added two more TDs early in the second quarter, a 29-yard weave seemingly through the Rams’ entire student body, and later a one-yard punch through the middle of the line. With conversions, including a two-point “keeper” by Castle that surprised Roberson’s special teams unit, and the Pioneers led 36-0 before the visitors from Asheville had even caught a whiff of any kind of scoring opportunity. Sideline photographers wondered aloud if the high school “mercy rule” would be triggered before the first half had even run its course.
But with Pioneer head coach Ryan Habich beginning to insert a smattering of reserves onto the field to get them some playing experience, Watauga’s lack of roster depth, especially on defense, was exposed.
Roberson finally got on the scoreboard with just 19 seconds remaining in the first half when junior QB Brody Whitson tossed a 12-yard pass to senior tight end Jordan Proctor-Bates to complete an impressive offensive possession for the Rams. It was a 9-play drive that kept the potent Pioneer offense off the field for a little more than three minutes and gave TCR a glimmer of hope going into intermission.
Roberson alternated their signal-caller throughout the game, perhaps in part because starter Shak Hill was shaken up midway through the second quarter. But coming out of the locker room it was Hill, a legitimate dual-threat QB, taking the reins of the TCR offense. The senior promptly completed a 23-yard aerial to his tall (6-4), lanky classmate of a wide receiver, Cameron Phillips, to get the ball into Pioneer territory (with possession) for just the third time in the game. Three plays later, junior wide receiver Zharius Cooper scooted 35 yards for Roberson’s second TD in as many possessions bookending halftime and TCR seemed to have established some momentum.
But Watauga’s offense matched the two scores given up on defense with 20- and 18-yard TD runs by senior wingback Jaiden Bond and Castle, respectively, to expand the advantage to 50-14.
Roberson might have been done in, but not done. With just 28 seconds remaining Hill found Phillips for another TD pass, this one covering 31 yards. On the ensuing kickoff, Satterfield electrified the Pioneer fans one last time, starting his return up the middle, then dashing into open space down the right sideline before being forced out of bounds at the Rams 8-yard-line. Habich immediately sent in his second offensive unit with instructions for the “victory” formation, downing the ball with 18 seconds left to run out the clock.
Following the game, Habich was happy for the win but didn’t seem quite satisfied.
“It was the first game of the year,” he acknowledged. “When you are working with 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds, and a couple who are 17, you are always nervous the first game. (Giving up) big plays, turnovers, and penalties are always a concern. We did a good job. We weren’t perfect by any means, but it was a good job.
“We got a touchdown on the first play of the game,” he added, “and then stopped them and went up 14 points. The first half I thought we played pretty good offensively. The second half, I was a little disappointed. I know we played a lot of backup guys the second half, but still, we did not play as tough as we needed to play. They will get better and we will need them to get better. We are going to need those role players as the season goes on.”
While Habich has indicated that the offense might pass more this year, he is not married to any particular strategy.
“They had a lot of guys back,” Habich observed. “If they are going to have guys back and not in the box, we are going to run the football.”
Roberson came into the game with a reputation for being bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic than the Rams team that lost to Watauga, 36-12, in the 2018 season opener in Asheville.
“We know that the teams we will be playing are likely to be bigger, stronger, faster, and more athletic than us,” Pioneer quarterback Anderson Castle admitted to a group of reporters outside the team’s field house after the game. “With all of the plays we have in our playbook, we’ll be able to run something against every single defense. As long as we execute it, it doesn’t matter how big they are or how fast they are.”
“…Everything was working tonight…We were getting at least five or six yards on every play,” Castle added. “Since they have a new coach, we weren’t really sure what their defense was going to be, or their offense. But our coaches always do a really good job of preparing. They give us the game plan and all we have to do is learn it and execute it.”
Castle disclosed afterward that the first play was an option to either handoff to Satterfield or keep it himself.
“It was an option,” the senior signal-caller explained, “but I was reading the guy on the end and I knew he wasn’t going to be able to catch Bryce (Satterfield). From there, it was just a matter of picking him up blocks on the perimeter.”
One of the brightest spots for the Pioneers on this night was the blocking up front by the offensive line, both in terms of opening holes for Satterfield, Castle, and Bond to run through, as well as blocking downfield.
“This has the potential to be one of the best offensive lines I’ve had (in front of me),” Castle said. “There may not be a huge (college) D1 type of player, but these guys can come together and become a really good O-line.”
Watauga will travel to West Jefferson next week (August 30, 7:30 pm) for a non-conference, High Country rivalry game against Ashe County, which was surprised Friday night by Watauga’s other High Country rival, Avery County, in a 53-33 shootout. Watauga holds a 54-37 record vs. Ashe County. On September 6th (7:30 pm), the Pioneers will go on the road again, playing at Reagan High School in Pfafftown, NC, north of Winston-Salem.
THE BLOWING ROCK NEWSHOUND PLAYERS OF THE GAME
- OFFENSE: Anderson Castle
- DEFENSE: Jake Watson, Grant Oliver
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Bryce Satterfield
SELECTED TEAM STATS
- Total Offense (yards) – Roberson 233, Watauga 592
- Passing (yards) – Roberson 129, Watauga 119
- Rushing (yards) – Roberson 104, Watauga 473
- Penalties/yards – Roberson 4/30, Watauga 10/75
- Fumbles/Lost – Roberson 2/1, Watauga 2/0
- Interceptions Thrown – Roberson 1, Watauga 0
- Time of Possession – Roberson 16:26, Watauga 31:34
- Third Down Conversions – Roberson 3/10 (30.0%), Watauga 5/8 (62.5%)
SELECTED INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS
- WAT – Anderson Castle: 22-206, 4 TDs
- WAT – Bryce Satterfield: 11-170, 2 TDs
- WAT – Jaiden Bond: 7-60, 1 TD
- TCR – Zharius Looper: 6-48, 1 TD
- WAT – Sebastian Best: 3-38
- TCR – Shak Hill: 5-26
- TCR – Devin Credle: 8-19
- TCR – Rodney McDay: 2-16
- WAT – Anderson Castle: 6-9, 119 yards
- TCR – Shak Hill: 7-11, 94 yards, 1 TD
- TCR – Brody Whitson: 5-8, 35 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- WAT – Jaiden Bond: 4-90
- TCR – Cameron Phillips: 3-61, 1 TD
- TCR – Rodney McDay: 6-40
- WAT – Sebastian Best: 1-26
- TCR – Trevon Hill: 1-13
- TCR – Jordan Proctor-Bates: 1-12, 1 TD
- Kickoff Returns
- WAT – Bryce Satterfield: 2-102
- TCR – Robbie Gilliand: 3-33
- TCR – Devin Credle: 2-30
- TCR – Jordan Proctor-Bates: 2-25
- TCR – Zharius Looper: 1-18
- WAT – Jaiden Bond: 1-12