Bond on the run

Watauga wingback Jaiden Bond gets blocks from tight end Orlando Leon (47), Jake Watson (5) and Sebastian Best (14) in the first quarter.

BOONE — It’s no secret that Watauga’s offense is capable of piling up big yardage to go along with the big points the Pioneers have scored this season.

In a 55-27 Watauga win over Kannapolis Brown at Jack Groce Stadium in the second round of the state 3-AA western bracket, the Pioneers pushed it to a different level. The Pioneers piled up 659 yards of total offense, including 602 yards rushing.

Watauga (12-1), the No. 2 seed in the bracket, also had two runners — wingback Jaiden Bond and quarterback Anderson Castle — rush for more than 250 yards. Bond gained 259 yards rushing on just 14 carries, which is an average of 18.5 yards per rush. Bond also scored touchdown runs of 58 and 13 yards.

Castle needed more carries to reach his totals of 252 yards on 28 carries and five touchdowns. Castle scored touchdown runs of four, three, 56 and four yards.

Watauga also collected 39 first downs, 34 of them rushing.

“We’ve got some football players who are pretty talented and pretty focused,” Watauga coach Ryan Habich said. “Our guys are playing both ways, but I told them a lot of these teams from Concord and Charlotte, they talk about how good their conference is and we can’t move the ball on them because they’re battle tested. Our guys take a lot of pride in that.”

Watauga’s defense posted big numbers in a different ways. The Pioneers held the Wonders, seeded 10th in the bracket, to zero total yards in the first quarter and just 83 yards rushing in the game.

A.L. Brown’s top running back Jakhiry Bennett, who gained 322 yards in a 56-50 Brown win over T.C. Roberson in the first round of the playoffs, was held to just 36 yards on 10 carries by the Pioneers.

“Our defense really played well in the first half,” Habich said. “Our offense played average in the first half and our special teams did not give up a big play, which was crucial for us. The defense played well in the first half and our offense really picked it up in the second half.

The Wonders (8-4) collected 283 yards in total offense, including 200 yards passing and three touchdown passes from quarterback Cam Kromah. He completed 12-of-26 passes, including a 55-yard touchdown to Isaiah Black in the third quarter.

Kromah also tossed an 11-yard touchdown to Austin Grunden and 17-yard touchdown to Jose Vargas. Both were in the third quarter that saw Watauga score 28 points and Brown score 20.

“The plan was to take (Bennett) away and I thought we did,” Habich said. “We wanted to take away their big plays and they hit the big pass and we didn’t want that to happen. I thought for the most part our defense did a good job of not letting them get in any rhythm and we neutralized (Bennett).”

A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome said the Wonders lost an offensive lineman earlier in the week, which hurt the team’s running game.

“I didn’t think it was going to affect us really that much,” Newsome said. “When you lose a kid who has been a starter all season long, it’s tough.”

The Pioneers took control of their game in the first half. Castle scored his first two touchdowns in the first quarter with plunges of four and three yards on the Pioneers’ first two drives. Watauga drove to the Wonders’ 1-yard line before Jake Watson capped the march with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Watauga got the ball back, but Castle fumbled after getting hit from behind and Brown’s Terry Williams scooped the ball and returned it 74 yards for a score. The Pioneers responded with a 58-yard Bond touchdown run and a 27-7 halftime lead.

Watauga took a 33-7 lead on a Castle 4-yard touchdown run at the start of the third quarter that seemed to be the Pioneers’ knockout punch. Brown came back with Kromah’s touchdown pass to Black, but Castle came back with a 56-yard touchdown run that gave Watauga a 41-14 lead that was never in jeopardy.

“They have a team full of really good players and (Castle) is undoubtedly one of the best players we’ve seen all season,” Newsom said. “They are really good at what they do. They’re very disciplined and tough and a good football team.”

Watauga hosts sixth-seeded Mount Tabor, a 37-21 winner over third-seeded Greensboro Dudley.

Watauga 55, A.L. Brown 27

A.L. Brown 0 7 7 13 — 27

Watauga 14 13 21 7 — 55

Scoring summary

First quarter

WHS—Castle 4 run (Everett kick)

WHS—Castle 3 run (Everett kick)

Second quarter

WHS—Watson 1 run (Kick failed)

ALB—Williams 74 fumble return (Woods kick)

WHS—Bond 58 run (Everett kick)

Third quarter

WHS—Castle 4 run (Everett kick)

ALB—Black 55 pass from Kromah (Woods kick)

WHS—Castle 56 yards (Everett kick)

WHS—Castle 3 run (Everett kick)

Fourth quarter

ALB—Grunden 11 pass from Kromah (Woods kick)

WHS—Bond 13 run (Everett kick)

ALB—Vargas 17 pass from Kromah

A.L. Brown WHS

First downs 13 39

By rushing 4 34

By passing 9 2

By penalty 0 3

Rushes-yards 18-83 57-602

Avg. per rush 4.6 10.6

Passing yards 200 57

Passes 12-26-0 2-4-1

Avg. per pass 16.7 28.5

Total plays-yards 44-283 61-659

Avg. per play 6.4 10.8

Penalties-yards 7-70 6-45

Punts-avg. 5-37.0 0-0

Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1

Time of poss: 9:28 26:09

Third down conv. 3-10 5-7

Fourth down conv. 1-2 1-1

Individuals:

Rushing: A.L. Brown—Kromah 6-41, Bennett 10-36, Kennedy 2-6; Watauga—Bond 14-259, Castle 28-252, Watson 10-46, Best 5-45.

Passing: A.L. Brown—Kromah 12-26-0 200; Watauga—Castle 2-3-1 15, Bond 0-1-0 0.

Receiving: Vargas 3-35, Black 2-65, Grunden 2-24, Bennett 2-6, Wilson 1-41, Johnson 1-20, Thompson 1-9; Watauga—Bond 1-36, Best 1-21.

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