As the old cliche goes, "One man's loss is another man's gain." Well, that was the case Friday night as the Watauga High football team errupted for 35 points in the second half and defeated Avery 35-20 in a non-conference game at Jack
Groce Stadium in Boone. The win put WHS (2-1) a game over .500, and it also snapped a two-game slide against the Vikings. It was WHS' first win against Avery since 2009, and its first win at home against the Vikings since 2008.
But it was a bittersweet night for head coach Tom Wright and the Pioneers. Despite the win, WHS also lost its best player to injury. Senior Collin Augustine, who was off to a blistering start, suffered a broken collarbone on WHS's first possession in the third quarter. Augustine was averaging a team-high 95-rushing yards a game, he was third on the team in tackles, second in tackles-for-loss, and he led the Pioneers in quarterback sacks.
"I really hate it for him," Wright said. "It just breaks my heart. He gives us everything he's got everyday in practice. He was destined for a big season. But things like this happen sometimes. It's a tough situation for him, and for us, because he means so much to our team."
"I'm sorry to hear Collin got hurt," said Avery coach Darrell Brewer. "He's a great player, and he's a great person. It's a big loss for WHS. I really hate it for him."
But with Augustine on the sidelines with his left arm in a sling, sophomore T.J. Poulos stepped up his game. Poulos, who had three rushing yards on two attempts for the season, gave WHS a huge shot in the arm in all three phases of the game---offense, defense, and special teams.
Poulos ran for 27 yards on ten carries and he scored twice. His three-yard run with 8:10 left in the third quarter got WHS on the board; his four-yard scamper with 6:14 left in the game put the contest out of reach. He also had a interception with a 30-yard return that set up WHS's go-ahead TD at the Vikings' 13-yard-line (a penalty against Avery on the play pushed the ball to the four), and his 62-yard kick-off return set up a three play, 27-yard scoring play that put WHS on top to stay. Trailing 20-14, quarterback Tripp Taylor danced his way through traffic for a seven-yard run and 21-20 lead with 54 seconds left in the third period.
"He did it on both sides of the ball," Wright said. "He made the big plays for us tonight. The young man really stepped up for us. And I'm really proud of the way our team responded, especially the seniors. We had a terrible first half, but our team kept its composure, and came back to win the game. I couldn't be happier with the results."
"I really want to thank my offensive line," Poulos said. "They really gave me some nice holes to run through. But I owe all of this to Collin. He is such a leader, and he's taught me a lot about playing running back. When I scored that first touchdown, I went right up to him first. When I found out that he was badly injuried, I was really disappointed. This is a team win. We won this game for Collin. He's our leader, and he was our biggest cheerleader on the sidelines tonight. We weren't going to let him down."
Trailing 12-0 at halftime following a lackluster performance in the first half, the Pioneers took control of the game by scoring 21 points in the third quarter. Making matters worse for the Vikings (2-1), they lost starting quarterback Tre Jackson to a concussion in the third period (he was shaken up in the first quarter on Avery's first possession of the game, but eventually returned).
"Losing Tre really changed our game plan," Brewer said. "It forced us out of the spread. We had to run the ball, instead. And then we turned the ball over on our first two possessions to start the third quarter. It forced us to defend a short field, and they took advantage of it. But I'm proud of the kids. They played hard."
The Vikings, who were averaging 175 yards a game through the air, we held to just 57 yards Friday night. And whatever plagued WHS in the first half (three turnovers and eight penalities), affected the Vikings in the second half. Avery, which came in with a plus four in turnover ratio, coughed it up a season-high four times. And the Vikings, who committed just four penalties in the first half, were flagged 11 times in the second half. Overall, the teams combined for nine turnovers (five for the Pioneers) and 28 penalties for 241 yards.
"We knew how bad we played in the first half," Taylor said. "We just had to turn things around in the second half. And with Collin getting hurt, that really motivated us. Plus, this is our home field, we take a lot of pride in defending it. We really turned it around in the second half, but it really hurts to see Collin go down like that. He's a good friend, a great player and our leader."
Taylor was 10-14 for 124 yards with two interceptions and a TD; Augustine ran for 78 yards on 11 carries prior to his injury, and Nick Williams caught five passes for 32 yards and he scored a TD. Luke Childress paced Avery with 61 rushing yards and he scored twice on a pair of four-yard runs in the first half.
The Pioneers close out their three-game home stand against West Caldwell next Friday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Oldies 100.7 FM.
NOTES: The Pioneers have won five straight at home dating back to last year. Their last loss at home came against Elizabethton in a 14-7 loss on September 30......The Pioneers lead the all-time series against Avery 31-13-1, but WHS is 9-8 against the Vikings since 1996....Friday night's 15-point win by the Pioneers was their largest margin of victory against the Vikings since a 35-12 win in 2009....The last time an underclassman made an impact for the Pioneers with a huge second-half burst it was Eric Breitenstein, who as a freshman, scored two second-half TDs (including a 91-yard kick-off return for a score) as the Pioneers rallied to beat Ashe County 14-8 in 2004. That was also Adrian Snow's (now at West Forsyth) first win as coach of the Pioneers.
SCORE BY QUARTERS 1 2 3 4 TOTAL
AVERY 0 12 8 0 - 20
WATAUGA 0 0 21 14 - 35
Qtr Time Scoring Play V-H
2nd 07:48 ACHS - Luke Childress 4 yd run (Stetson Stafford rush failed), 6-21 2:27 6 - 0
00:22 ACHS - Luke Childress 4 yd run (Luke Childress rush failed), 4-13 0:53 12 - 0
3rd 08:10 WHS - TJ Poulos 2 yd run (Stephen Shirley kick), 4-23 1:26 12 - 7
05:05 WHS - Nick Williams 1 yd run (Stephen Shirley kick), 4-4 2:03 12 - 14
02:09 ACHS - Austin Phillips 8 yd pass from Stetson Stafford (Luke Childress rush), 3-12 0:44 20 - 14
00:54 WHS - Tripp Taylor 7 yd run (Stephen Shirley kick), 3-28 1:01 20 - 21
4th 07:48 WHS - Jimmie Accardi 2 yd run (Stephen Shirley kick), 6-40 3:17 20 - 28
06:14 WHS - TJ Poulos 4 yd run (TEAM kick), 2-38 0:43 20 - 35
FIRST DOWNS: WHS 14, AVERY 10
RUSHING YARDS: WHS 108, AVERY 67
PASSING YARDS: WHS 124, AVERY 57
TOTAL YARDS: WHS 232, AVERY 124
TURNOVERS: WHS 5, AVERY 4
PENALTY YARDS: WHS 13-104, AVERY 15-137
POSSESSION TIME: WHS 25:07, AVERY 22:53
3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS: WHS 2-7, AVERY 2-10
4TH DOWN CONVERSIONS: WHS 1-2, 2-3
WHS: AUGUSTING 11-78, POULOS 10-27-2TD
AVERY: L. CHILDRESS 22-61-2TD
WHS: TAYLOR 10-14-2I-124
AVERY: STAFFORD 4-8-19; JACKSON 3-7-1I-38
WHS: WILLIAMS 5-32; MACKEY 3-40
AVERY: D. CHILDRESS 2-24
WATAUGA 35, AVERY 20
HICKORY 27, MAIDEN 25
SOUTH CALDWELL 46, PATTON 0
HIBRITEN 42, WEST CALDWELL 14
FRED T. FOARD 34, WEST LINCOLN 31
NEWTON-CONOVER 50, ST. STEPHENS 3
DAVIE COUNTY 27, ALEXANDER CENTRAL 6
NORTH SURRY 21, ASHE COUNTY 6
Photo Courtesy: Philip Greene of Curtis Media Presents Tom Wright With The Bucket, Rob Moore