Pioneers win conference title

Watauga quarterback Anderson Castle (7) runs through the Watauga offensive line and the West Caldwell defensive line.

GAMEWELL — Watauga’s football team left no doubt for anybody watching the Pioneers play at West Caldwell on Nov. 2 which team is the undefeated Northwestern Conference champion and which team hasn’t won a football game all season.

Watauga dominated from the opening kickoff and never let up in its 62-0 victory over winless West Caldwell on Nov. 2. Watauga (11-0, 7-0 NWC) won the outright NWC championship for the first time since 1980 and became the first team in Watauga High School history to finish unbeaten and untied.

“That’s pretty special,” Watauga coach Ryan Habich said, just before he was doused by a few of his players with the water jug. “Our team had that goal in mind going into the season. I tell people that we have not been an overnight success. Over the last five years, we’ve been close. Last year we won 10 games and missed the conference championship. We had a few games over the years.”

Watauga finished off its season by overwhelming an overmatched West Caldwell (0-11, 0-7) team. The Pioneers held West Caldwell to just 28 total yards and minus three yards rushing.

Watauga’s defense also held the Warriors to just one first down, which was gained in the second quarter. West Caldwell never drove past its own 37-yard line, was 0-for-9 on third downs and faced a 49-0 halftime deficit. That sparked the 42-point mercy rule of a running clock that began at the start of the third quarter.

“Our defense stopped them,” said Watauga defensive back Jackson Greene, who had an interception. “They didn’t do much. We pretty much knew the plays they were going to do.”

Watauga’s offense did the same to the West Caldwell defense. Jaiden Bond nearly broke the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but was tackled at the Pioneers’ 47-yard line. Five plays later, Watauga quarterback Anderson Castle capped the 53-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown on a march that went to second down just once in five plays.

It was the first of six touchdowns that Castle had a hand in. He also scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter and tossed four touchdown passes in the second quarter, including two to Jackson Greene and one each to Jake Watson and one to Grant Oliver.

Castle completed 7-of-12 passes for 135 yards with no interceptions. He started throwing more passes after the Pioneers claimed a 21-0 lead attempting to work on their passing game going into the playoffs.

“It feels great to make Watauga history,” Castle said. “We were treating it like it was just another game — like if we were playing Freedom. We went out and did what we needed to do and we got some reserves in. It was just a great night for us.”

Bond, who scored on a 32-yard touchdown run, led the Pioneers in rushing with 78 yards on just five carries. Watauga ran for 313 yards despite the running clock in the second half.

Backup wingback Sebastian Best gained 67 yards rushing, including a 36-yard touchdown, on just two carries. Bryce Satterfield added 61 yards on seven carries, and backup running back Ben Critcher added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

The set-up punch for Watauga was a 34-16 victory over visiting Freedom one week earlier on Oct. 26. That victory clinched a tie for the conference championship, something the Pioneers had not done since 2007.

The win over West Caldwell was never in doubt. The exclamation point of the night was when Habich was hit with the water.

“It feels good,” he said. “Our kids have been working hard and it’s special to win here. It’s something we haven’t had a lot of and hopefully we can make this something we do year in and year out.”

Watauga 62, West Caldwell 0

Watauga 21 28 6 7 — 62

West Caldwell 0 0 0 0 — 0

Scoring summary

First quarter

WHS—Castle 13 run (Densham kick)

WHS—Bond 32 run (Densham kick)

WHS—Castle 2 run (Densham kick)

Second quarter

WHS—Watson 12 pass from Castle (Densham kick)

WHS—Greene 18 pass from Castle (Densham kick)

WHS—Oliver 19 pass from Castle (Densham kick)

WHS—Greene 35 pass from Castle (Densham kick)

Third quarter

WHS—Critcher 1 run (Run failed)

Fourth quarter

WHS—Best 36 run (Densham kick)

Watauga West Caldwell

First downs 26 1

By rushing 19 0

By passing 7 1

By penalty 0 0

Rushes-yards 31-313 12-(-3)

Avg. per rush 10.0 -(0.3)

Passing yards 135 31

Passes 7-12-0 7-19-1

Yards per comp. 19.3 4.4

Total plays-yards 448 28

Avg. per play 10.4 0.9

Penalties-yards 1.5 6-26

Punts-avg. 0-0 7-29.9

Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0

Third down conv. 2-4 0-9

Fourth down conv. 2-2 0-1

Time of poss. 23:21 24:39

Individuals:

Rushing: Watauga—Bond 5-78, Best 2-67, Satterfield 7-61, West 3-32, Castle 4-21, Everett 3-17, Harmon 3-16, Critcher 3-15, TEAM 1-(-4); West Caldwell—Beaver 3-3, Blanton 1-0, Brown 7-(-1), Urbina 1-(-5).

Passing: Watauga—Castle 7-12-0 135; West Caldwell—Urbina 7-19-1 31.

Receiving: Watauga—Greene 2-53, Bond 2-35, Oliver 2-35, Watson 1-12; Horton 6-26, Philbeck 1-5.

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