WEST JEFFERSON — Monday is not the traditional night for high school football, but the Ashe County Huskies (1-3) were up for the task against the West Caldwell Warriors (0-4) in Lenoir, Monday, Sept. 16. The game started Friday, Sept. 13, but repeated lightning delays halted the action after the first quarter, leaving the game to be put on hold for three days.
The Huskies built a 12-0 lead in the first quarter, before the game was suspended 17 seconds into the second.
Huskies head coach Brian Hampton said the situation was not ideal, and the coaching staff was worried about how the players would react.
“The biggest concern I had was that our guys would show up early and start under unusual circumstances,” Hampton said. “No national anthem, no band playing, just a completely different atmosphere. To our guys’ credit, they acted exactly how they were supposed to.”
Hampton said the team started slowly but picked up speed as the game went on. Back-to-back touchdown passes from junior Dawson Cox and a stout defensive effort let the Huskies end the first half up 26-0.
Cox found fellow junior J.J. Mannan for another passing touchdown in the third, before Jacob Miller pulled in an interception which he took all the way back for a 55-yard pick-six and a 40-0 lead.
Keenan Witherspoon scored the final touchdown of the game with a 20-yard reception from Cox, sealing the 46-0 shutout win.
Hampton said Cox’s 284 yards and six touchdown performance echoed the growth he’s shown this season, as well as they rest of the still-young team.
“He’s put in a lot of work in the off-season and continues to improve each week,” Hampton said. “That was Dawson’s fourth varsity start, so I’m pleased where he is right now. He’s also surrounded by a lot of guys who just made their fourth varsity start, so we’re still a young team with very little experience.”
One of the players who made their fourth varsity start was Mannan, who hauled in six receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Hampton said Mannan has stepped up big in the absence of Austin Poe, who’s out with a hamstring injury, and expects him to continue on as a big part of the offense.
The game marks the first win of the season, which Hampton said is the nature of the team’s grueling non-conference schedule. While not the best record, Hampton said the important thing is what’s happening on the field.
“We try to play a tough non-conference schedule and I think we do,” Hampton said. “Obviously we’d like to be 4-0 at this point and not 1-3, but the important thing to me is that if you’ve watched each game, we have gotten better in all aspects of the game. As a coach, that’s what you want.”
Luckily for the Huskies, the game fell into their bye week, still giving them ample time to rest up and work on things before their first conference match-up with Alleghany (1-3) Friday, Sept. 27. Hampton said the big thing to work on is getting the ground game moving, with the Huskies only getting 33 rushing yards against the Warriors.
Scott Ballard contributed reporting to this story.