VALDESE — With three wins in its first four contests, the Avery Vikings sought to continue its non-conference success when it ventured to neighboring Burke County to tangle with the Draughn Wildcats.

In a game that featured school records for Avery pass attempts, more than 1,000 yards in combined total offense, and a number of big plays from playmakers on both sides of the field, Draughn exploited weaknesses in the Viking pass defense and benefitted from Viking inefficiency in the red zone to earn a 48-22 win over Avery, dropping the Big Red to 3-2 for the season.

“Statistically, we win the game. We snapped the ball 95 times in a high school football game. We threw the ball 74 times, which I think is one of the most times in North Carolina high school history. We had 535 yards of offense and we had 30 first downs to 15 for them. We rushed for 150 yards to their 130 yards so we stopped the run, which is what we’re there to do every week,” Avery head coach Mac Bryan said after the game. “On the negative side, we had four turnovers, which we haven’t had. We lost the turnover battle 4-to-1, which is the first time that’s happened this season. We had six passing plays on our defense that were more than 30 yards, and that counted for about four of their touchdowns. The other negative thing was that five of the times we were in the red zone we didn’t score any points, so we left 35 points out there on the field.”

Avery opened the scoring the same way in which the Vikings junior varsity ended its scoring the previous evening in the JV meeting between the two schools: with a defensive safety. AHS sophomore lineman Levi Andrews sacked Draughn quarterback Braxton Cox in his own end zone for a safety for an early 2-0 advantage three minutes into the contest.

Over the course of the next two quarters, however, Draughn scored the game’s next 35 points to seize control. Avery turned the ball over on the ensuing free kick, but forced a Draughn punt. Deep in its own territory, however, the Viking offense again coughed up the pigskin, which Draughn recovered at the Avery 12-yard line. DHS running back Trent Corn scored on the following play to put the Wildcats on top 7-2.

The teams traded possessions until the Wildcats used a 30-yard pass completion from Cox to wide receiver Khe-nai Banks to enter the Vikings red zone at the start of the second quarter. Three plays into the new period, Cox found Donovan King on a five-yard TD pass that upped Draughn’s lead to 14-2.

Avery’s offense stalled on its next series as DHS forced a three-and-out. On the first ensuing offensive play, Cox and Banks again hooked up, this time for a 69-yard touchdown strike to increased the home team’s margin to 21-2 with 9:29 remaining before halftime.

The Vikings began to move the football with urgency with its next offensive possession, driving 65 yards over 10 plays. Faced with a fourth and goal from the Draughn 2, Avery opted to roll the dice for the touchdown. A running play was stonewalled by the DHS defense to leave the Vikings empty-handed.

After an exchange of punts, Draughn’s quick-strike ability again reared its head, as Cox found Banks on a pass completion and the speedy wideout darted through the secondary and to the goal line for a school-record 80-yard touchdown, increasing the Wildcat advantage to 28-2 with 2:00 to play before halftime.

Despite trailing on the scoreboard, AHS continued to play with poise, driving to the Draughn 10-yard line in a two-minute drill. Again faced with 4th-and-goal, this time at the DHS 10-yard line, a Troy Hoilman pass to teammate Jonas Bowman fell incomplete, closing the half with the club facing its largest halftime deficit of the season at 26 points.

Avery forced a Draughn three-and-out to open the third quarter, but was unable to capitalize, failing to convert a fourth down at midfield with its first series of the second half. With its second possession, DHS found the end zone to extend its lead, moving 51 yards on seven plays, capping the drive with a 7-yard Cox pass to Nick Chrisco. The extra point pushed out the lead to 35-2 midway through the stanza.

The Vikings answered the latest DHS touchdown with one of its own, driving 65 yards over 10 plays, elapsing a little more than two minutes off the game clock. Hoilman connected with wide receiver Ty Smith on a 7-yard score, narrowing its deficit to 35-10 entering the fourth quarter.

Following a defensive stop, Avery again looked to slice into the Wildcats’ lead, but the Big Red was stopped at the DHS 1-yard line when Hoilman was picked off for the first time this season.

“We’ve had very little problems throwing in the red zone,” Bryan added. “They did a pretty good job, but we just didn’t make some plays that we have to make.”

The Viking defense again turned DHS away on the first possession of the fourth quarter to give the offense the football, but another drive stalled inside the Draughn 10-yard line as a running play was stymied on 4th-and-1.

Midway through the stanza following another exchange of turnovers, Avery managed to break through with another score as Hoilman found Jesse Jones with a 31-yard touchdown pass. The conversion attempt failed, but Avery had inched to within 35-16 with 5:17 remaining.

Any momentum built by the Vikings was quickly quelled, however, when Draughn used just two plays to answer with a touchdown, the latter a 25-yard touchdown pass from Cox to Banks. The extra point extended the Wildcat lead to 42-16.

The home them then put the finishing touches on its win after an Avery three-and-out on its ensuing possession, when Cox found receiver Denver Treadway in the right flat, who outraced the defense on a 74-yard score.

With the last possession of the game, Avery drove 80 yards over 10 plays, scoring on the final play as Hoilman found Jones for a 5-yard touchdown pass to provide the final 48-22 margin.

Hoilman completed 38-of-70 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions. The signal-caller completed passes to seven separate Viking receivers, led by running back Lucas Andrews, who caught 11 passes to go with 117 rushing yards on 14 carries.

Cox completed 14-of-25 passes for 382 yards with six touchdown passes. Banks finished the evening with five receptions for 211 yards and three scores, while Corn ran the ball 16 times for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Bowman led the Viking defense with five tackles and a sack, with Levi and Lucas Andrews combining for six solo tackles and five assisted tackles.

Avery looks to return to its winning ways this Friday, Sept. 27, when it squares off against neighboring Cloudland (Tenn.) Kickoff at Orr Field is set for 7:30 p.m.

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