The Watauga High football team dropped its final non-conference game of the season Friday night. The Pioneers coughed up two first-quarter touchdowns and lost to Elizabethon (TN) 14-7 at blustery Jack Groce Stadium. The Cyclones (4-3), who snapped a two-game losing streak,
scored on their first two possessions of the game----on a 39-yard run by Terrance Turner, and a six-yard scoring pass from quarterback McKenly Berry to Chad Pritchard----for an early 14-0 lead.
After that, however, the WHS defense kept the Cyclones and their high-powered offense in check.
"We just adjusted after their first two possessions," said defensive lineman David Martin, who recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter. "Our linebackers really came up big. We really shut them down. And the good thing about this game is that we're coming off a loss with Alexander on the schedule next week. Coming off a loss is really going to fire us up for that game."
And the Pioneers are curerntly all alone in second place in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference standings after Hickory defeated Alexander Central 34-14 Friday night in Taylorsville. The loss also snapped Alexander Central's eight-game winning streak in league play. Prior to Friday night, Hibriten was the last team to beat the Cougars in the final game of the regular season in 2009. South Caldwell (6-1; 3-0) remains in first place after the Spartans clobbered Fred T. Foard, 54-0.
But the Pioneers (4-3) couldn't generate any offense Friday night against the Cyclones. They finally got on the board, thanks to a methodical 12-play, 80-yard drive that nearly ate up five minutes. Ethan Greene hooked up with Kyle Chambers on an 11-yard toss that cut the lead in half at 14-7 with 10:03 left in the second quarter.
But that was it. WHS, which only had 179 yards offensively, fumbled its first possession of the second half at the Elizabethon eight-yard line., killing off what seemed like a potential game-tying touchdown drive. A poor pitch on the option from Greene to Chambers was recovered by Luke Nidiffer of the Cyclones.
The Pioneers let another scoring chance slip away in the fourth quarter. Martin picked up a fumbled snap by Berry at the WHS 32-yard-line and returned it to the Cyclones' 36. But Stephen Holtsclaw sacked Greene for an 11-yard loss on the first play of the drive, and a holding call on the very next play pushed the Pioneers all the way back to their 37-yard-line, facing a second-and-32 situation.
WHS managed to move the ball back the original line of scrimmage on a 14-yard toss to Brian Bolster at midfield, and 13-yard pass to tight end Clint Trivette. But the Pioneers turned it over on downs, when Zach Treadway batted down Greene's fourth-down pass at the Cyclones' 25.
"Our kids really battled," said WHS coach Tim Pruitt. "We got close a couple of times there, but we couldn't score. But a new season starts next week with Alexander Central, and I really feel this game will help us. It will show us what we still need to work on. But I was proud of the effort tonight. We did a good job against a competitive team."
The Cyclones had 297 yards offensively, and Turner, their leading rusher, finished with 243 yards on 34 carries. The bulk of that yardage came on his 39-yard scoring run in the opening stanza and a 62-yard scamper in the second period. That run gave the Cyclones a first down at the WHS 12, but WHS's defense stiffened and the Cyclones turned the ball over on downs at the WHS four.
"It's just 11 guys getting after it," said WHS linebacker Will Morgan. "Whether it's non-conference or conference, I hate to lose. It's frustrating. We just gave up some big plays early and it hurt us."
Chambers paced WHS with 85 yards on 21 carries. Bolster finished with three catches for 39 yards. Greene was 7-15 for 71 yards with a touchdown pass, despite the windy conditions. He also punted six times for 227 yards, including a pair of wind-aided 54-yard punts in the first half. One of those buried Elizabethon at its three-yard-line in the second quarter.
"This game really gives us a ticked off attitude," said linebacker Colin Augustine, who paced WHS defensively Friday night with 14 stops, including a tackle-for-loss. "It leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths. But it gets us ready for Alexander Central. It's a big game for both of us, and this loss will push us to really prepare for that game next week."
Taylor Shuford had 11 tackles, including two TFL; Martin had nine stops and Nick Williams had eight. The Pioneers entertain Alexander Central in their Homecoming game next Friday night. Our coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Oldies 100.7 FM.
NOTES: Friday night's loss snapped WHS's three-game winning streak----it's longest winning streak since 2008.....Alexander Central snapped a three-game losing streak in Boone last season. They defeated WHS 20-0 at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The game was moved from Jack Groce Stadium following a power outage.....The Cougars lead the all-time series against WHS with 20 wins and 13 loss. The Cougars have also won two in a row against the Pioneers.
1 2 3 4 T
ELIZABETHON 14 0 0 0 - 14
WATAUGA 0 7 0 0 - 7
1Q - EHS: TURNER 39 YD RUN (HARDIN'S KICK), 7-69, 2:01 7-0
1Q - EHS: BERRY 6 YD PASS TO PRITCHARD (HARDIN'S KICK), 8-54, 2:18 14-0
2Q - WHS: GREENE 11 YD PASS TO CHAMBERS (PARSON'S KICK), 12-80, 4:50 14-7
FIRST DOWNS: WHS 12, EHS 13
RUSHING YARDS: WHS 108, EHS 247
PASSING YARDS: WHS 71, EHS 50
TOTAL YARDS: WHS 179, EHS 297
TURNOVERS: WHS 1, EHS 1
PENALTY YARDS: WHS 4-36, EHS 8-74
TIME OF POSSESSION: WHS 23:16, EHS 24:44
THIRD DOWN EFF.: WHS 5/13, EHS 2/12
FOURTH DOWN EFF.: WHS 1/2, EHS 4/6
WHS: GREENE 7-15-71-TD
EHS: BERRY 8-13-50-TD
WHS: CHAMBERS 21-85
EHS: TURNER 34-243-TD
WHS: BOLSTER 3-39, CHAMBER 1-11-TD
EHS: PRITCHARD 4-15, HOLDSCLAW 3-30
NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE STANDINGS
SOUTH CALDWELL 3-0; 6-1
WATAUGA 2-0; 4-3
ALEXANDER CENTRAL 2-1; 3-4
HICKORY 1-1; 4-2-1
ST. STEPHENS 1-2; 2-5
HIBRITEN 0-2; 3-4
FRED T. FOARD 0-3; 1-6
ELIZABETHON (TN) 14, WATAUGA 7
SOUTH CALDWELL 54, FRED T. FOARD 0
HICKORY 34, ALEXANDER CENTRAL 14
ST. STEPHENS 27, HIBRITEN 21
FREEDOM 56, R.S. CENTRAL 0
EAST BURKE 36, NEWTON-CONOVER 35 (OT)
BANDYS 45, WEST CALDWELL 0
ASHE COUNTY 34, NORTH WILKES 7