The Watauga football team goes into its home game with McDowell Oct. 25 as a heavy favorite.
Watauga (8-1, 4-0 Northwestern Conference) has won six straight games going into its game with McDowell. The Pioneers are unbeaten at home in the regular season since 2015, and the Watauga offense has not scored less than 35 points in any game this season.
A win over McDowell coupled with a win at Freedom on Nov. 1 gives the Pioneers their second straight NWC championship. It also gives Watauga 23 straight regular season home victories dating back to 2015.
Watauga leads Freedom (6-3, 3-1 NWC) in the NWC standings by one game in the conference. A loss to McDowell and Freedom would leave the Pioneers in second place. A win over Freedom regardless of what happens against McDowell would give the Pioneers the league championship.
“You’ve got to win out if you want to be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs,” Watauga coach Ryan Habich said. “Even if we lose to McDowell and beat Freedom, then we’d be co-champs, but we’d be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That’s key because you possibly could get two home games in the playoffs, so we’re a different football team when we play at home.”
McDowell, coached by former Avery coach Darrell Brewer, goes into the game Oct. 25 with a 1-7 overall record and 0-4 in the NWC. Alexander Central clobbered the Titans 63-0 on Oct. 18, which came on the heels of a 50-10 loss to South Caldwell a week earlier.
Watauga, after taking a 33-14 lead, scored 28 unanswered points in the third quarter on its way to a 67-14 victory. Habich was not pleased with how the Pioneers’ defense played in the first half and wants to contain McDowell’s offense in the first 24 minutes of the game.
“We’re going to have to get more stops from our defense earlier in the game,” Habich said. “That’s the goal going into this game.”
Even with the lopsided score, Habich would like to see the Pioneers play better defensively. He wants the Pioneers to be more aggressive on defense and knows that McDowell is going to test their physicality with its running game.
Leading the Titans’ running attack is junior running back Quantavian Moore. He leads the Titans in rushing with 610 yards and gained 188 of them in a loss to Mitchell and 154 yards in McDowell’s lone win, a 41-28 win over East Burke.
“They’re physical,” Habich said. “They have a lot of power I formations, so that will be a challenge. Their game plan will be to control the clock and keep the ball away from our offense.”
“The goal is to get better,” Habich said. “It’s a big game for us and it’s Senior Night, too,” Habich said. “This senior class has never lost a regular-season game at Jack Groce Stadium.”