Off and running

Watauga’s Jaiden Bond turns up field with the help of linemen Dakota Silvers (75) and Adrion Cassiday.

BOONE — One of the key elements that Jaiden Bond gives the Watauga football team is versatility.

Bond, a senior, can play any position in the Watauga backfield. Need a running back? Bond has lined up behind quarterback Anderson Castle on numerous occasions.

Need a wingback? Bond can be especially deadly running the ball on counter plays and on jet sweeps from his wingback position. He can also catch the ball from the wingback position as he did on a 47-yard touchdown against South Caldwell.

Need a quarterback? Well, Castle gets most of the work from behind center, but if Castle can’t play, and the game is still in doubt, don’t be surprised if Bond is taking snaps.

It’s a reality that Bond has dreamt about, but at the same time, that’s where he wants to keep it.

“I’ve been expecting it,” Bond said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Anderson Castle is the quarterback, so I’m hoping that it never happens.”

Bond makes plenty of contributions to the Pioneers’ offense, which averages 47.6 points per game. Watauga has not scored less than 35 points in a single game and has scored 56 two times this season.

Most of those yards have come on the ground. Castle leads the team in rushing with 995 yards, but Bond is second with 686 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averages more than 13 yards per carry.

The best way to stop Bond is to get him in the backfield before he can get started forward. Allow him to get in space and into the defensive backfield, and a touchdown is always possible.

“Our offensive line does a great job of opening holes for me,” Bond said. “We’ve gotten a lot better, not just me, but all of our wings and wide receivers are blocking well along the perimeter.”

That includes Bond, who at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, learned the hard way that even a wingback or a wide receiver has to play physical football to play for the Pioneers.

“Coach Habich will tell you in my sophomore year against St. Stephens I kind of got bullied,” Bond said.

Bond also got hit hard enough in a playoff game against Greensboro Dudley that was a “welcome to varsity football” moment in his freshman year. Bond was knocked out of the game after being hit in the head in the Watauga loss.

The shot he took was so physical he missed the start of the Watauga basketball season.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” he joked. “It was a play we had been running all game and it was working. I caught the ball and started running upfield. I turned around and I saw two dudes running at me and I got hit and that was it.”

Bond has been avoiding those types of hits, and has evolved into the Pioneers big-play weapon in his last three seasons with the Pioneers. He finished with 2018 season with 1,230 yards on just 78 carries, an average of 15.8 yards per carry. He also scored 13 touchdowns, which was second to Bryce Satterfield’s 23 scores.

Bond said he does not think about running when actually running the football. He lets his ability take over and so far, that has worked.

Putting his faith in a solid offensive line has also helped.

“The offensive line has worked their tails off every single game and they make us look good,” Bond said. “I just try to make the most out of all of the carries I get. I don’t think about it. I just think about scoring every time.”

But Bond had to become more physical offensively. Bond said he learned how to be more physical by watching fellow wingbacks Corey West and Zach West.

“Just seeing the way they play and the fire they played with, I just kind of developed that,” Bond said.

Bond had to become more physical since he also plays cornerback for the Watauga defense. Not only do cornerbacks have to cover receivers in the secondary, but they must also provide run support, especially on sweep plays.

That leaves Bond having to take on pulling guards or opponents’ receivers he is lined up against trying to stop the run.

“I’ve just really gotten used to it,” Bond said. “I’ve had some learning experience, especially in my sophomore year. I had a few learning experiences and that has helped me. Just having guys behind me and in front of me who know how to do their jobs just kind of makes me more confident in what I do.”

Bond also plays on several of Watauga’s special teams, including returning kickoffs and punts. He has learned to stay hydrated during games and went through the Pioneers’ rigorous conditioning program over the summer.

He said the combination of training and willingness to sacrifice over the summer has made the Pioneers better.

“When you’ve got a lot of guys who want to win and don’t like losing, who are willing to put in the work during practice, it just translates to the field,” Bond said. “Nobody’s going to back down. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who are not afraid of knocking it back down, no matter who we play.”

Bond, a guard on the basketball court, plays basketball much like he plays hoops; without fear and with reckless abandon, especially when he drives to the basket.

“It comes back to football, really,” Bond said. “I’m not ever going to be afraid of anything, no matter who is against me. I’ve going to give it my all and that is my mindset.”

Bond doesn’t show fear on the football field or basketball court, even if he’s being chased by two big Dudley football players.

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