NEWLAND — Utilizing a debilitating passing attack that kept its opponent on its heels for the entire night, and unleashing a defensive onslaught that gave up only one big play accounting for almost half of the opposition’s total offensive yards, the Avery Vikings matched its 2018 win total on Friday, Aug. 30, with a dominating 51-6 beatdown of West Wilkes in front of the home crowd inside the friendly confines of MacDonald Stadium.
Avery scored touchdowns on eight of its first nine possessions of the contest to overcome an early West Wilkes touchdown and 6-0 deficit, scoring 51 unanswered points to cruise to victory.
Vikings quarterback Troy Hoilman continued his scorching start by completing 18-of-28 passes for 365 yards, throwing for six touchdowns. The junior signal caller has thrown for 11 touchdowns in Avery’s first two games, and is yet to throw an interception.
A pair of receivers, Ty Smith (176) and Jonas Bowman (133) eclipsed the 100-yard receiving plateau, with Smith snagging four of Hoilman’s TD passes and Bowman snatching the remaining two scores.
“I thought we played extremely well. Defensively we gave up 177 yards on paper, but we gave up 63 of them on one run because we had one missed assignment. Other than that, they only had 114 yards, and that’s pretty dang good,” ACHS Head Coach Mac Bryan said following the win. “Last year, and for a couple of years before that, we couldn’t stop the run. Well, we stopped the run. We had two fourth-down stops that were critical. I thought our defense played very well. Offensively, Troy had a really good night. He and Ty were making big plays. We were just able to make big plays on them, and they had a hard time defending the passing game.”
Another strength the Big Red displayed in the game was its ability to dictate field position through the kicking game.
Viking kicker Finley Serafim averaged more than 52 yards per kickoff, and forced West Wilkes to start from its own 20-yard line following touchbacks on four separate occasions.
“It’s a total game changer when don’t have to cover a kick. That’s a scary thing when you have to cover kicks, and when he’s able to put them in the end zone like that, it’s an 80-yard field and that automatically helps your defense be better, so that’s a big plus,” Bryan added. “Everything works together, from punting the ball to covering it well to kicking well. All those things add up.”
Avery forced a pair of West turnovers in the win, while the defense held the Blackhawks to only 97 yards of total offense following the first West offensive series of the contest.
“Defensively, we had a bunch of guys play well. I thought Dalton Towe had his best game defensively. He showed up a lot and Levi Andrews played extremely well. Inside, Steven Deyton played the best game of his career against West Wilkes. Jesse (Jones) is always Jesse, he’s gonna make a lot of tackles,” Bryan noted. “An example we showed to the kids after the game was how, when they broke that long run, we had three guys chase him and put him on the ground. Your goal every play on defense is to make the offense snap it again. They almost turned the ball over down there before they scored, and an effort like that can change the whole game.”
West Wilkes drew first blood in the matchup, when Dallas Rash scored on a 1-yard plunge. The two-point conversion failed, but WWHS led 6-0 less than two and a half minutes into the first quarter.
From that point, Avery took complete control. Hoilman connected with Bowman on a deep route for a 53-yard touchdown, with Serafim’s PAT giving the Big Red a lead it would not relinquish for the remainder of the night.
After the defense forced a three-and-out deep in West territory, a long punt return by Smith set up shop for the offense at the West 2-yard line. From there Avery punched the ball across the goal line when Hoilman scored on a 1-yard keeper. The PAT was blocked, but Avery led 13-6.
Another three-and-out was forced by the Big Red defense, and Avery hit paydirt yet again with its ensuing possession when Hoilman found Smith on a 50-yard touchdown bomb. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but Avery led 19-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Vikings defense continued to bow its neck against the West offense, forcing another Blackhawks punt. With possession near midfield, Avery drove 51 yards over eight plays to again reach the end zone, this time on a six-yard TD pass from Hoilman to Bowman. Another blocked extra-point attempt left Avery with a 25-6 lead with 8:58 remaining before halftime.
West’s most sustained offensive series came with its ensuing offensive series, as it took advantage of a 53-yard Dylan Ball kickoff return to open play in Avery territory. WWHS drove 35 yards on nine plays, marching to the Avery 5-yard line. The AHS defense stiffened, however, turning away the Blackhawks on third and fourth downs to turn the football over on downs.
The momentum pendulum swung permanently in Avery’s direction once the offense gained back possession, driving 94 yards in just six plays, taking less than two minutes to score yet again. Hoilman found Bowman for 37 yards in pass completions, Lucas Andrews broke off a 12-yard run in the series, and Smith culminated the scoring march with a 35-yard pass catch from Hoilman, leaving Avery with a commanding 31-6 lead.
Sensing the game getting away from them, the Blackhawks went for broke on its next possession, attempting (and failing) to convert a fourth down deep in its own territory. Avery took advantage of the short field to pad its lead, as Hoilman found Smith in stride for a 26-yard touchdown pass to boost the Big Red to a 38-6 halftime lead.
The second half proved to be much the same story of Viking domination, as Avery scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter. Hoilman and Smith combined for their fourth pitch-and-catch touchdown of the game early in the period to give AHS a 44-6 lead.
Following a West turnover, Avery freshman Chad Giarrusso joined the scoring spree with a 3-yard touchdown scamper with 6:40 to play in the quarter for the final Viking points of the night. The score triggered the NCHSAA running-clock mercy rule which occurs when a team builds a lead of 42 points or greater. The running clock served to wind down the second half in short order as the Vikings sailed to victory.
Avery travels to Weaverville this Friday, Sept. 6, to take on fellow unbeaten North Buncombe, a 3A school which has scored 60 or more points in lopsided wins over Patton and Madison. Coach Bryan anticipates a hard-fought affair this week.
“They have played really well the first two weeks. They’ve put up a lot of points, they’ve caused some turnovers defensively and made some things happen in the kicking game, but basically they’re a running football team. Their running back is a good player. When he gets to running North-South, he’s hard to handle. The quarterback runs well. They haven’t thrown the ball but nine times, but they’ve been playing with a lead all the time. They do some things, moving formations around to try to outflank you and outbalance you. It’s gonna be a test for the defense. They’re going to try to run the ball right at us. So far, we’ve been pretty good against the run, but they’re a different animal,” Bryan explained. “Defensively, three or four of their kids stand out for having a high motor. They have good quickness, especially on the defensive line, and they move a lot of people around.”
Avery will face the largest school of the season in North Buncombe, a 3A school that sees its share of battles in the Western Mountain Athletic Conference.
“This is going to be a challenge to us, being a 3A school playing in a really good league in Asheville with teams like Asheville, AC Reynolds and Erwin every year, so they know what competition is. Being on the road as well for us, this will be quite a challenge for us to go down there and compete with a 3A school,” Bryan added. “People will look the scores and think that this is going to be a 50-something to 50-something shootout, but I’m not sure that’s what it’s going to be. I think both defenses are better than people think. I think it’s gonna be one of those games where if we can keep the game tight going into the fourth quarter, we can give ourselves the chance to win the game. It’s going to be a measuring-stick game of where we’re at. It will come down to turnovers, missed assignments, penalties, and doing the little things right.”