That slogan best describes the Watauga High football team. For the third time in three weeks, the Pioneers (3-1) bounced back from a lackluster first-half performance to win the game. Friday night, WHS, trailing 7-3 at the intermission,
came back to beat winless West Caldwell 33-14 in a non-conference game at Jack Groce Stadium. And they did it without their best player---Collin Augustine (shoulder injuiry)---on the field.
The Pioneers, riding a three-game winning streak, also won their sixth game in a row at home dating back to last season. And WHS, which only mustered 41 yards of offense in the first half, jumped in front for good on its first possession of the second half.
"We just have to be more focused in the first half," said WHS coach Tom Wright. "We just don't have a sense of urgency to start the game. But at halftime, they regrouped, they had each other's back and they responded with a terrific effort."
WHS took the opening kick-off to start the second half and marched 80-yards in seven plays for an 11-7 lead. Tripp Taylor, who was 13-18 for 197 yards, hooked up with Cameron Baker on a 16-yard toss in the near corner of the end zone for the lead.
"It was just a stop-and-go pattern," Baker said. "Their defensive back stumbled a bit, and I was able to get behind him. And Tripp threw a good ball. It was right there."
The Warriors (0-4), mired in a 16-game losing streak dating back to 2010, responded with an impressive march of their own. The Warriors, who turned it over four times, got the ball inside the red zone and were threatening to score when Robert Caldwell, who led the Warriors with 105 rushing yards, coughed up a fumble and Quealeb Monfison of the Pioneers recovered it at the WHS 15-yard-line.
Two plays later, Taylor hooked up with Baker on an 83-yard pass for a 19-7 lead. Baker, who had seven receptions for 148 yards, got behind Aaron Rowe of the Warriors, made the catch at the WHs 45 and raced in for the score.
"We opened things up with a short passing game in the second half," Wright said. "They did a good job stopping us in the first half. They took the runnning game away from us. And, I know they're struggling to win games right now, but West Caldwell has some good players that are fast. They gave us a lot of problems running the ball, especially in the first half."
"We really missed Collin in there," Baker said. "But we made the right adjustments in the second half team. Right now, it looks like we're a second half team. We just have to be more focused at the beginning of the game. But we pulled through as a team and came back to win tonight."
DeWayne Mackey backboned the defense with a career-high three interceptions. His first pick set up a Stephen Shirley 22-yard field goal that finally got WHS on the board with 10:31 left in the first half.
"It was fun, that's for sure," Mackey said. "But we've got to tackle better, including myself. We have to stop people better. In the first half, they had a lot of momentum and just moved the ball on us. They pushed us around. We just got beat up. But in the second half, we turned things around in our favor."
But WHS, which didn't turn the ball over for the first time this season, was flagged nine times for 105 yards. And the Pioneers committed two huge penalties on a West Caldwell drive late in the third quarter that cut into WHS' lead.
Trailing 19-7 and facing a first and 35 at their 10-yard-line, the Warriors worked the ball out to the 26 and were facing a fourth-and-19. But a personal foul penalty moved the ball to the 41, setting up a manageable fourth-and-four. The Warriors picked up the first down on the next play to keep the drive alive.
Moments later, quarterback David Denison hooked up with Xzavian Dula on a 20-yard pass play for a first down at the WHS 30. A face mask penalty moved the ball to the 15. The Warriors punched in from there on Rowe's three-yard run, making it 19-14 with 10:15 to play in the game.
But WHs responded on its next possession, and marched 80 yards in 11 plays. And the Pioneers got lucky as well. T.J. Poulos had a huge hole and was headed for the end zone, but he was hit on the play and fumbled the ball inside the five. Fortunately, Jimmy Accardi fell on the loose ball in the end zone for a 26-14 lead.
"That was a lucky play," Wright said. "We were in the right spot and turned it into points. We just have to play better in the first half. And I'm confident in this group. We'll make the adjustments and be ready for our (Nothwestern 3A/4A) conference opener next week (at Fred T. Foard)."
Nick Williams applied the final touch with a 71-yard run with 18 seconds left. It was a simple run up the middle that allowed Williams to break free.
"The offensive line did a great job opening up that hole," Williams said. "All the credit goes to them. But I just want to be a contributing factor to our team on offense. Losing Collin really hurt us on the strong side. It wasn't real pretty, but I'm glad we won the game. We're definitely a second half team."
Williams led WHS with 83 yards on four carries, and the Pioneers ran the ball for 140 yards on 29 carries (an average of two yards a carry). In turn, the Warriors piled up 299 yards on the ground. Rowe complemented Caldwell's effort with 84 yards on ten carries
"Our heads just weren't into it in the first half," Taylor said,. "We didn't expect West Caldwell to come at us in the first half like they did. But at halftime, we set things straight. It was a pretty rowdy halftime. We got our heads together; we realized we weren't playing like we're capable of. And the short passing game opened things up. It allowed us to spread the field."
The Pioneers begins NW3A/4A Conference play in Newton against Fred T. Foard next Friday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Oldies 100.7 FM.
NOTES: With the win, the Pioneers are off to their best start since 2009....WHS has won four in a row against the Warriors. West Caldwell leads the series, however, 21-9....West Caldwell, which made its first trip to Boone since 2005, hasn't beaten WHS since 2004. The Warriors haven't won in Boone since 2001.....The 2004 win (14-8 win) spoiled Adrian Snow's (now at West Forsyth) coaching debut with the Pioneers. The 2001 win (a 34-14 win) spoiled Mike Hudson's coaching debut.....The Warriors, counting Friday night's loss, are 19-85 since 2003. They haven't had a winning season since 2002 (they were 10-3 that year), and they haven't won a game since October 29 against Draughn (a 34-33 win), 2010.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
West Caldwell 7 0 0 7 - 14
Watauga 0 3 16 14 - 33
05:15 WCHS Robert Caldwell 1 yd run (Grayson Barnette kick)
14 plays, 87 yards, TOP 6:45
10:31 WHS Stephen Shirley 23 yd field goal
7 plays, 19 yards, TOP 2:58
9:53 WHS Cameron Baker 16 yd pass from Tripp Taylor (DeWayne Mackey rush)
7 plays, 80 yards, TOP 2:07
4:35 WHS Cameron Baker 83 yd pass from Tripp Taylor (Cameron Baker pass from D. Mackey)
2 plays, 85 yards, TOP 0:56
10:15 WCHS Aaron Rowe 3 yd run (Grayson Barnette kick)
14 plays, 81 yards, TOP 6:13
6:00 WHS Jimmie Accardi 0 yd fumble recovery (Stephen Shirley kick)
11 plays, 80 yards, TOP 4:15
00:18 WHS Nick Williams 71 yd run (Stephen Shirley kick)
4 plays, 86 yards, TOP 2:04
FIRST DOWNS: WC 21, WHS 17
RUSHING YARDS: WC 299, WHS 140
PASSING YARDS: WC 66, WHS 197
TOTAL YARDS: WC 365, WHS 377
TURNOVERS: WC 4, WHS 0
PENALTY YARDS: WC 10-105, WHS 9-105
TIME OF POSSESSION: WC 27:41, WHS 20:19
3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS: WC 9-12, WC 4-10
4TH DOWN CONVERSIONS: WC 2-3, WHS 1-1
WC: CALDWELL 18-105-TD, ROWE 10-84-TD
WHS: WILLIAMS 4-83-TD, POULOS 17-56
WC: DENISON 3-7-3INT-66 YARDS
WHS: TAYLOR 13-18-197YARDS-2TD
WC: DIXON 1-38
WHS: BAKER 7-148-2TD
NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD
FRIDAY NIGHT'S GAMES
WATAUGA 33, WEST CALDWELL 14
BUNKER HILL 35, FRED T. FOARD 14
MAIDEN 28, ST. STEPHENS 7
SOUTH CALDWELL 38, EAST BURKE 0
HICKORY 32, NORTH GASTON 20
HIBRITEN 21, PATTON 14
KINGS MOUNTAIN 55, ALEXANDER CENTRAL 33
ASHE COUNTY 42, ELKIN 34
McDOWELL 47, AVERY 28
Photo Courtesy: Cameron Baker, Rob Moore