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Coming off an impressive 53-33 victory over Ashe County that was not as close as the final score indicated, the Avery Vikings (1-0) looks to remain unbeaten when it squares off against the rebuilding West Wilkes Blackhawks (0-1).

West was blanked last week at home against Forbush by a 24-0 final score, though the team was only trailing by a 9-0 score at intermission in the matchup. Meanwhile, Avery scored 26 unanswered third-quarter points last week to pull away from visiting Ashe and avenge a 50-7 loss last season to the Huskies.

Though Avery and West Wilkes have not played in recent seasons, the two clubs have met several times in this century. Avery defeated West Wilkes 21-7 at MacDonald Stadium when the clubs last met in 2012 and has won eight consecutive matchups in the all-time series, with West last defeating Avery by a 20-12 final score back in 2002. Avery holds a 19-7 overall advantage in the series that dates back to the first meeting between the teams in 1973.

Scouting the Blackhawks

The West Wilkes Blackhawks are coached by Todd Rutz, who made his debut as the team’s head coach last week. Rutz has been the school’s athletic director since 2013 and succeeded former head coach David Hunt, who led West for six years before resigning following last season.

Rutz brings more than a decade of varsity head football coaching experience to the field for the Blackhawks, and has been on the school’s coaching staff since taking over as offensive line coach back in 2015.

West struggled in 2018, finishing with a 3-8 overall record, and went winless in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference. Since the 2016 campaign, the Blackhawks have won just one conference contest. In that 2016 season, West garnered eight wins and qualified for the state playoffs.

Rutz is putting his own stamp on the program despite losing 11 players from last year’s club to graduation. During last season’s struggles, however, close to two dozen players saw action at the varsity level. West failed to garner any all-conference first-team players in 2018, but had a pair of standouts in Dallas Rash and Garrett Shumate earn honorable mention all-conference recognition.

“My goal is to get all aspects of our program working together,” Rutz told local media upon his promotion in the offseason. “When our athletes, coaches, administration, parents and youth program are on the same page, we will be able to build a consistently competitive program that will make us proud to be Blackhawks.”

On the field, the Blackhawks will be led by quarterback Jackson Jarvis, along with the aforementioned Dallas Rash.

The Low Down

West Wilkes struggled to move the football offensively last week against Forbush save for one lone drive that consumed 15 plays but stalled on a failed fourth-down conversion. Turnovers doomed the Blackhawks in last week’s shutout loss, turning the football over three times in defeat.

Avery meanwhile turned in a sterling defensive effort, as the club forced five turnovers and also blocked a punt on special teams against Ashe County last week. Giving the offense multiple possessions paid great dividends as the Big Red capitalized over and over against an outmanned Huskies club last week.

For the Vikings to open its season with a second-consecutive victory, the offensive machine which churned up more than 500 yards last Friday will do well to continue its roll. West may prove a tougher matchup, but will have to bring its “A” game in order to keep the prolific scoring prowess of quarterback Troy Hoilman, wide receivers Ty Smith, Jonas Bowman, Jesse Jones, and the rest of the high-powered Viking attack in check.

Avery may have surprised some pundits with its explosiveness and decisive victory last week, but West Wilkes will know what the Vikings are capable of on both sides of the football. Knowing about a team’s potency and stopping it are two different matters, however. If the Vikings get off to a fast start this week, the game could be a repeat of the team’s opening-week result.

By the numbers:

0 — points scored by West Wilkes thus far this season

2 — touchdown passes by Forbush quarterback Casey Graham in the Falcons’ 24-0 win in Millers Creek last week

4 — interceptions by the Avery defense in last week’s win over Ashe

29 — first downs gained by the Viking offense in its win against the Huskies

82 — all-purpose yards by Avery freshman Chad Giarrusso, including a 32-yard touchdown run

101 — combined number of pass attempts by Ashe and Avery in last week’s game at MacDonald Stadium

This week’s matchup is the annual NCHSAA Endowment contest. Read next week’s edition of The AJT for a recap of this week’s game against West Wilkes, as well as a preview of Avery’s first road contest next week at North Buncombe.

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