BOONE — The Ashe County junior varsity football team had its share of solid drives against Watauga at Jack Groce Stadium Aug. 29.
The Huskies saved their best drive for last. Ashe County marched 75 yards in eight plays on a game-winning drive capped by a Matthew Mullis 1-yard run with 36.5 seconds left in the game.
The extra point was no good, but the Huskies walked away with a 20-14 road victory. Ashe County improved to 2-0, while Watauga slipped to 0-1.
Watauga did not play in the preseason scrimmages against North Surry and East Surry. The Pioneers also did not play Aug. 22 against T.C. Roberson since the Watauga and T.C. Roberson varsity teams were playing in an endowment game.
That left the JV Pioneers not seeing live action against another team since it scrimmaged against Maiden on Aug. 10.
“When you’re in middle school, you kind of just run around and hope to break loose and score,” Pioneers coach Marshall Thomas said. “In high school you have to execute, block and mainly not turn the ball over.”
Ashe County executed, blocked and held on to the ball after taking possession with 2:11 left in the game. Ashe quarterback Wesley Thompson completed five out of six passes on the Huskies’ ensuing drive.
Each completion, three to Colin Estes and two to Drew Roland, left the Huskies with a first down. The final completion gave Ashe a first-and-goal at the Watauga 1-yard line.
Mullis scored on the Huskies’ next play.
“This group is very fun,” Ashe coach Brian Hampton said. “They come to learn. They’re a lot of fun to be around and they’ve improved from day one. They’ve had to do a lot of work with the varsity because of our lack of numbers, so we don’t get to spend much time working with them as we would like. But, they don’t complain.”
Watauga got the ball back at its own 37-yard line. Cole Horine broke off a 25-yard run, but was thrown for a 5-yard loss on the next play, which was the final play of the game.
Watauga’s offense was able to run the football on the Ashe defense. Hanging on to the football proved to be a different story. Watauga fumbled several times, including a key time after the Pioneers had moved the ball from their own 5-yard line to the Ashe 39-yardd line.
Watauga also suffered a blow when quarterback Levi Temple injured his left ankle during that drive and had to leave the game.
Ironically, Temple scored Watauga’s second touchdown by recovering a fumbled snap and running the ball eight yards for the score. Temple found Bryce Walker in the end zone to cash in a two-point conversion and give Watauga a 14-7 lead.
Ashe roared back and scored on a 25-yard Thompson touchdown pass to Rowland in the third quarter.
Watauga got on the scoreboard with a 10-yard run from Carlton Horine on a counter play. The counter play worked well against the Huskies, but critical Watauga mistakes kept the Pioneers out of the end zone.
“We definitely shot ourselves in the foot,” Thomas said. “Whenever we executed a play and didn’t fumble it and blocked it correctly, we were gashing them for 20 or 30 yards. But when we fumbled snaps, fumbled (handoffs), fumbled tosses, you can’t win football games.”
Watauga hosts Reagan on Sept. 5, while Ashe County hosts Hibriten the same night.