WILKESBORO — In a high-energy, four-quarter display, the Ashe County Huskies (5-3) proved they deserve to remain at the top of the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference, securing their 11th consecutive conference win, against the Wilkes Central Eagles (4-4) on Friday, Oct. 18.
The 55-29 conference victory marked the Huskies’ fourth for this season and 11th consecutive conference win spanning back to the 2018 season. Still playing without running back Timothy Peterson — sitting out due to an ankle injury — the Huskies racked up 469 total offensive yards during the contest.
Much of the Huskies’ offensive success can be attributed to running backs Boen Crouse and Ryan Blevins — the latter player, Blevins, making his debut in the backfield during Friday’s contest. By the end of the fourth quarter, Blevins ran for 53 yards and fought his way past the Eagles’ defense for two touchdowns.
“Guys just step up when we need them to step up,” Huskies Coach Brian Hampton said. “Our offensive line was excited to be able to run the football, and we moved the ball well on the ground.”
In total, the Huskies collected 162 rushing yards. Crouse, who stepped up after Peterson went down in the match against Elkin on Oct. 5, gathered 120 yards on the ground and 106 receiving yards for a well-rounded performance.
“(Crouse) is shifty. He’s difficult to get a good, clean hit on,” Hampton said. “The very first touchdown, he hit the sideline and outran everybody, and that set the tone right there.”
In the Huskies’ first possession of the game after a punt by the Eagles, Ashe was backed up at their own 25-yard line on third down when quarterback Dawson Cox connected with Crouse on a short pass. Crouse then escaped midfield pressure and darted down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown reception.
After a missed extra point, the score sat at 6-0 in favor of the Huskies. The Eagles immediately responded in their following possession, pitching the ball to running back Joraye Morrison at their own 29-yard line, where Morrison managed to slip past the Huskies’ defense and score a 71-yard touchdown run.
With a successful extra point, the Eagles were up 7-6 with eight minutes left in the first quarter. Following the kickoff, the Huskies picked up at their own 30-yard line. After driving down the field, Cox tossed a quick pass to Poe in midfield for a 22-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was good, and the Huskies were up 13-7.
On the kickoff, the Eagles set up shop at their own 42-yard line. It didn’t take long for the Huskies defense to slow the Eagles to a standstill, resulting in a punt. The Huskies offense then took the field at their own 28-yard line with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Once again, the Huskies drove down the field. With less than a minute left in the first quarter, Poe snagged another pass from Cox for a 25-yard touchdown reception, lifting the Huskies lead to 19-7 after a missed extra point. By the end of the contest, Cox would collect 307 passing yards.
The second quarter commenced with an Ashe County kickoff the Eagles, where they picked up on their own 15-yard line. The Eagles’ possession would ultimately result in a touchdown after two big runs from Morrison, closing the score gap to 19-15 after a successful 2-point conversion.
It didn’t take long for the Huskies to respond. On the kickoff, Poe ran 75 yards to the endzone for another Huskies touchdown, increasing the lead to 27-15 after Crouse juked his way across the goal line for a successful two-point conversion.
The Eagles’ successive drive resulted in a turnover on downs, with Ashe picking the ball up on their own 25-yard line. After a long pass to Thomas Ballard, Blevins punched the ball in for a 4-yard touchdown. After another 2-point conversion, the score was 35-15 with four minutes to go in the second quarter.
After running two minutes off the clock, the Eagles then responded with a 45-yard touchdown pass, adding another seven points to their score, making it 35-22 with two minutes left in the half.
With less than 30 seconds to go before halftime, Blevins pounded his way into the endzone for another touchdown, followed up by a pass to Ballard for the 2-point conversion.
At the half, a total of 65 points had already been scored between the two teams, with Ashe in the lead by a score of 43-22.
The second half started in unusual fashion, with the Huskies recovering a failed onside kick by the Eagles. Within minutes, the Huskies were within the Eagles’ 20-yard line. Despite the field possession, the Huskies were unable to convert on fourth down, turning the ball over on the Eagles’ 6-yard line.
The third quarter was scoreless for the Huskies. Even with the Eagles’ opportunity to close the score gap during the Huskies’ scoreless third quarter, Ashe’s defense was able to hold the Eagles to only one touchdown. The third quarter ended 43-29, with much momentum resting with the Eagles.
The fourth quarter was another defensive success for the Huskies, holding the Eagles back from the endzone on several potentially critical drives. With eight minutes left, the Huskies offense took the field after a big defensive stop.
The offense then chose to play it safe on the drive, keeping the ball almost exclusively on the ground as the Eagles defense shut down the passing game during the third quarter. After running nearly five minutes off the clock, Blevins drove his away into the endzone for another touchdown, making the score 49-29 after a failed 2-point conversion with three minutes left in the contest.
“That was a huge drive for us,” Hampton said.
The Eagles’ second to last drive for the game was nothing short of salt on the wound, as Andrew Peterson picked off an Eagles pass and returned it to the house, adding another six points to Ashe’s lead.
With no timeouts left, the clock ran out during the Eagles’ final possession — on the scoreboard, 55-29, Huskies.
“It was a good night,” Hampton said. “I think this week we were really focused, and we have to remain focused.”
Up next, the Huskies will welcome East Wilkes (3-5) for a chance to retain their undefeated record in conference on Friday, Oct. 25. Hampton said the team will be focusing on tackling and continuing to get better all around.
“After a big win like this, it’s easy to get complacent not perform the way we should next week,” Hampton said. “So, we have to really stay focused and get after it.”