WEST JEFFERSON — In their first week of conference play, the Ashe County Huskies (2-3) showed that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Mountain View Athletic Conference, soaring past the Alleghany Trojans (1-4) to secure their first conference win of the season.
In last year’s meeting between the two teams, the Huskies outscored the Trojans 48-28. This year, it was a similar story. Sporting U.S. National Guard jerseys in honor of Military Appreciation Night, the Huskies were ready to launch a four-quarter assault on the Trojans.
At the start of the contest, Boen Crouse returned Alleghany’s kick to the 21-yard line, where the Huskies offense then took the field. After a series of first downs, the Huskies pushed their way into the red zone within the first few minutes of the quarter. Dawson Cox connected with Austin Poe — making his return after a two-game absence due to injury — on fourth and goal for the score, followed by a completed extra point to give Ashe a 7-0 lead.
Alleghany then looked to respond. In their first set of downs, a high snap resulted in a fumble for the Trojans on their own 10-yard line — recovered by Ashe’s Ryan Blevins. Eyeing down the goal line, Cox connected with Timothy Peterson in the end zone for the second score of the first quarter. The point after was good, adding another 7 points to Ashe’s lead.
Following the kickoff, Alleghany’s second possession resulted in a four-and-out, where Ashe then picked up at the 35-yard line. Despite the ideal field position, the Huskies ended up turning the ball over as Cox was intercepted.
With Alleghany now having a chance to seize the opportunity following Cox’s interception, a fumbled snap once again resulted in an Alleghany turnover. The Huskies picked up the ball on their own 45-yard line with around two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Huskies then battled their way down the field for a first and goal. After a false start was called against Ashe, Cox looked to connect with Poe in the end zone but was picked off — his first of two interceptions for the game. Alleghany ran the ball out to the 7-yard line, where their offense then took the field with under a minute left in the first quarter.
At the start of the second quarter, Alleghany was pinned against their own end zone. After two tackles for losses by the Huskies defense, the Trojans had no choice but to punt on fourth and long.
Ashe then looked to add another 7 points after being denied in the end zone during their last possession. A 30-yard gain by Peterson that would have set the Huskies up for a first and goal was called back due to a holding penalty, resulting in a punt.
Following another four-and-out from Alleghany, Ashe drove down into Trojans territory, where Cox launched a 27-yard bomb to Thomas Ballard for a touchdown. The successful extra point gave the Huskies a 21-0 lead with three minutes to go in the second quarter.
With Alleghany now eager to get some points on the board before halftime, the Trojans pounded their way down the field, making it to Ashe’s 35-yard line. The Huskies defense refused to surrender any more yardage, holding the Trojans back on fourth down and resulting in a change of possession.
The first half ended with Ashe in the lead, 21-0.
At the start of the second half, Alleghany lined up to receive the kickoff with a newfound sense of urgency to tip the momentum in their favor. Alleghany’s Dustin Rector (20) returned the kickoff 90 yards for a Trojans touchdown. The point after was good, making the score 21-7.
The Huskies then immediately responded, as Kaden Burgess returned Alleghany’s kickoff down to the 25-yard line. After making it down to the goal line, the Huskies were unsuccessful in a fourth-and-goal attempt, resulting in a change of possession.
The Huskies defense once again put forth a strong effort to hold the Trojans back, not allowing them to escape their own side of the field. Facing another fourth-and-long situation, Alleghany punted the ball down to Ashe’s 37-yard line.
With Ashe now in possession, Cox completed a pass to Poe, breaking two tackles before being brought down at Alleghany’s 29-yard line. After a few plays, the Huskies faced a fourth-and-long situation. Cox then connected with J.J. Mannan on a fade route to the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown with less than a minute to go in the third quarter. The Huskies were up 28-7.
The next few drives, both teams went back and forth, either punting or turning the ball over. Ashe’s Jacob Miller picked off an Alleghany pass before the end of the third quarter, which was then followed up with a fumble by Poe on Alleghany’s 11-yard line.
The next score came from Peterson, rushing into the end zone on first and goal for a Huskies touchdown, making the score 35-7 with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Following another strong defensive effort from the Huskies defense, Cox connected with Ballard for his second touchdown reception. Ballard, a sophomore, collected 146 yards with a total of five receptions. Cox went 25-39 in completions for the game, racking up a total of 365 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
With less than two minutes to go in the game, Alleghany’s Spencer Murphy finally managed to break through the Huskies defense, rushing for a 30-yard touchdown.
At the final buzzer, Ashe was on top by a score 42-14, securing their first win in conference play.
“Our concern coming in tonight was Alleghany’s physicality, and I think we matched their physicality — we were the more physical team,” coach Brian Hampton said.
In his first game back after suffering a hamstring injury, Poe secured eight receptions for a total of 82 yards. Overall, the Huskies earned 459 yards.
“I thought we played well in spurts,” Hampton said. “I thought we left a few scores out there — a couple of drives stalled, penalties, and a couple of misreads, missed blocks, typical stuff you’re going to have in the game — but for the most part, we executed when we needed to offensively.”
As the Huskies prepare for the next week, Hampton said the team will be focusing on conditioning as Elkin has a lot more depth.
“We just have to keep improving in every aspect of the game,” Hampton added. “The real goal is to improve every week until we peak.”
Ashe will travel to Elkin for their second conference game of the season Friday, Oct. 4.