|Written by Mike Kelly|
|Saturday, 26 October 2013 01:07|
Remember when John Elway led the Denver Broncos on that 98-yard scoring drive in the American Football Conference championship game in 1986. That game-winning march by Elway was labeled, "The Drive", and it got the Broncos into the Super Bowl.
Well, Watauga High quarterback Aaron Dobbins did a pretty good job duplicating that effort on Friday night. Trailing 20-17 with 8:16 left to play, Dobbins marched the Pioneers 86 yards in 12 plays for the game-winning score as WHS knocked off Patton 24-20 in Morganton.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak, and it moves WHS (7-2 overall; 3-2 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference) into a three-way tie for third place in the NW3A/4A Conference with Patton (7-2; 3-2) and Hickory (who the Pioneers play at home next Friday night).
"We're still in the chase for a conference championship," said WHS coach Ryan Habich. "And our guys know that. We've got two losses, but Freedom and Hibriten still have to play two more games and anything can happen late in the season. This is a big win for us, especially on the road."
Dobbins, who was 10-20 with two interceptions for 143 yards, hooked up with Cam Baker on a 35-yard scoring toss with 3:51 left to play. Baker, who ran a hitch pattern on the play, caught the ball in traffic, broke a tackle at the Patton 15-yard-line, and waltzed into the end zone.
"(Baker) made a good catch," Dobbins said. "And coach Habich always says that great players make great plays in big games. Cam made a huge play for us and it won the game."
But Hunter Isaacs made the biggest play of the night. Facing fourth-and-seven at the Panthers 48, Dobbins hooked up with Isaacs on a seven-yard screen pass that barely produced a first down and kept the drive alive. Isaacs made it by mear inches. The Pioneers scored two plays later, and that game-winning drive ate four-minutes and 35-seconds off the clock.
"We just put that play in this week," Isaacs said. "It was something new. No one seen us run it before, and it's a good play. I just worked my way up field after I made the catch, and I just got the first down. It's just amazing. This is just like our past two games. It was close, and we finally pulled one out against a good football team."
"Football is a game of inches," Habich said. "I'll admit I was a little worried about this game. You're on the road, it's cold, and they score on their opening possession. But our guys are so resilient. Nothing phases these guys. Instead of hanging their heads, they just keep fighting."
The Panthers took the opening kick-off and marched 66-yards in just two plays. The drive only took 59 seconds. Sampson Cuthbertson scored on a 56-yard run for a 7-0 lead. But the Pioneers came right back on their first possession of the game and tied it up.
They marched 80 yards in 13 plays. Zach Williams, who scored twice on the night, punched it in from two yards out. WHS ate more than six minutes (6:11 to be exact) off the clock on that drive.
"Give Patton a lot of credit," Habich said. "They were well prepared for us tonight. Defensively, they pretty much kept us in check, especially with the running game. We had to make some adjustments at halftime, and the option game finally got us going."
And it was Dobbins, who jump started the running game on the first play of the third quarter. Trailing 14-7, Dobbins ran 49 yards on the option keeper to the Panthers 14-yard-line. WHS scored seven plays later on a two-yard run by Williams to tie the game at 14.
WHS finally took its first lead of the game on a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Shirley with 11:45 left to play. But that lead was short-lived. Cuthbertson burned the Pioneers 15 seconds later as he returned the ensuing kick-off 90 yards for a TD and a 20-17 lead. That also set the stage for Dobbins' game-winning drive.
And the WHS defense, which coughed up two quick TDs to start the game, finally settled down in the second quarter. And by the second half, the Pioneers were extremely stingy.
They held the Panthers to just one first down, and Cuthbertson was held to a mear eight yards rushing in the second half. And it was the WHS defense that smothered Patton on its final drive of the game. A 32-yard pass from quarterback Nick Conklin to Ethan Roper gave the Panthers a first down at the WHS 37 with 2:14 to play.
But the drive stalled. A false start penalty on fourth-and-seven pushed the ball back to the WHS 39. And on fourth-and-12, Conklin's desperation pass intended for Landon Colley fell well out of his reach at the WHS 10.
"It's a big win for our players," Habich said, "especially after we lost two very close games in the last couple of weeks. We beat a good football team tonight. Patton is physical, and they've got some good athletes. It was a real struggle for us, but we found a way to win the game."
Dobbins led the WHS running game with 104 yards; Williams had 58 yards on 17 carries. The Pioneers had 178 yards rushing and 321 yards of total offense. The Panthers finished with 271 yards, but they only had 41 yards offensively in the second half (WHS outgained the Panthers 207-41 in the second half). The Pioneers also had three quarterback sacks for minus 11 yards.
Baker led the WHS passing game with six catches for 95 yards and the game-winning score. T,J, Poulos caught three passes for 41 yards; Roper led the Panthers with three catches for 47 yards; Colley had two receptions for 53 yards.
The Pioneers return home to play Hickory next Friday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on AM 1450, WATA and GoBlueridge.net.
NOTES: The Pioneers have won two straight in Morganton dating back to 2007....WHS is 4-0 on the road this season. The last time WHS was 4-0 on the road was in 2006....Cam Baker is the leading receiver in the NW3A/4A with 36 catches for 854 yards and a league-high 11 TD receptions....Patton only had the ball for 9:23 in the second half....The Pioneers will celebrate Senior Night next Friday night. It will also be Pioneer Pride Night, Pack the Pantries Night, WHs will honor its 1978 state championship team, and the Pioneers will retire the jerseys of Eric Breitenstein and Danny Triplett.
WATAUGA 24, PATTON 20
1 2 3 4 TOTAL
WATAUGA 7 0 7 10 - 24
PATTON 14 0 0 6 - 20
10:54 PHS-CUTHBERTSON 56 YARD RUN (MORRIS KICK), 2-66, 7-0
04:43 WHS-WILLIAMS 2 YARD RUN (SHIRLEY KICK), 13-80, 7-7
03:08 PHS-CONKLIN 52 YARD PASS TO WHITENER (MORRIS KICK), 4-81, 14-7
07:57 WHS-WILLLIAMS 1 YARD RUN (SHIRLEY KICK), 8-66, 14-14
11:45 WHS-SHIRLEY 31 YARD FIELD GOAL, 7-39, 17-14
11:30 PHS-CUTHBERTSON 90 YARD KICK-OFF RETURN (KICK FAILED), 20-17
03:51 WHS-DOBBINS 35 YARD PASS TO BAKER (SHIRLEY KICK), 12-86, 24-20
FIRST DOWNS: WHS 13, PATTON 8
RUSHING YARDS: WHS 178, PATTON 118
PASSING YARDS: WHS 143, PATTON 163
TOTAL YARDS: WHS 321, PATTON 271
FUMBLES/LOST: WHS 2/1, PATTON 1/1
TURNOVERS: WHS 3, PATTON 2
PENALTY YARDS: WHS 1-5, PATTON 6-40
WHS - DOBBINS 14-101, WILLIAMS 17-58-2TD, POULOS 5-17, FORD 4-2
PHS - S. CUTHBERTSON 8-64-TD, CONKLIN 8-35, ERVIN 5-18, RUTHERFORD 1-4, COLLEY 2-4
WHS - DOBBINS 10-20-TD-2I-143
PHS - CONKLIN 11-20-163-I-TD
WHS - BAKER 6-95-TD, POULOS 3-41, ISAACS 1-7
PHS - ROPER 3-47, WHITENER 3-31-TD, COLLEY 2-53, CARAWAY 1-17, ERVIN 1-4
Photo Courtesy: Justin Greer, Dakota McCrary, WHS Athletics
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