NEWLAND — A full roster of talented junior varsity Viking football players took the field at MacDonald Stadium in its home opener for the regular season against the 3A North Buncombe Black Hawks. Avery’s defense played with intensity and aggression, helping the club stay close on the scoreboard through the first half. The depth of North Buncombe and a pair of key miscues by the Big Red helped the Black Hawks pull away in the second half, however, to pick up a 36-14 win on Thursday, Sept. 5.
The teams traded possessions to open the contest, and the Black Hawks drew first blood on the scoreboard in its second series when North Buncombe’s Bryson Peters broke multiple tackles in a strong individual effort to score on a 52-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Gabe Banks crossed the goal line on the two-point-conversion attempt to stake the visitors to an 8-0 lead with 3:06 remaining in the opening period.
As the first half wore on, both teams found the going tough against the opposing defenses with neither team able to break through for a score until North managed to piece together a long drive that culminated in a Riley Ledford 1-yard plunge across the goal line with 1:59 to play before halftime. The Vikings stymied North on the two-point conversion, but trailed 14-0 entering the intermission.
Disaster struck for the Big Red midway into the third quarter, when a Dawson Wyatt pass attempt was intercepted by Peters, who dodged tacklers en route to a 29-yard interception-return touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was again turned away by Avery, but NBHS upped its lead to 20-0 with 5:15 to play in the period.
Late in the third quarter, the Vikings defense made a huge play to force a North Buncombe fumble, which was recovered by Avery’s Devron Patterson inside the NBHS 30-yard line. In the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Vikings capitalized on the turnover when running back Logan Gilliam showed excellent concentration in catching a pass that tipped off a North defender. Gilliam hauled the pass in and fended off a pair of Black Hawks to cross the goal line for Avery’s first score of the contest. The two-point conversion failed, but Avery drew to within 20-6 with 9:05 to play in the game.
After the teams traded possessions, North’s Ayden Chandler broke through the Avery defensive front and galloped downfield for a 48-yard touchdown tote. Peters ran in the two-point conversion to give the Black Hawks a 28-6 advantage with 4:43 to play.
On its next series, Avery put together one of its strongest drives of the night, using its passing attack to advance the football into the red zone. Another gaffe spelled doom for the Big Red, however, when a pass on an out route at the 1-yard line was picked off by North’s Ethan Robinson, who raced down the sidelines to paydirt for a 99-yard interception-return touchdown. The two-point conversion increased the NBHS edge to 36-6 with 3:01 to play.
Showing the heart of a champion, the Avery club refused to lay down, and methodically marched downfield with precision in the game’s closing minutes. North appeared to add insult to injury with another red zone interception, but a roughing the passer penalty against the Black Hawks negated the turnover.
AHS took advantage of the penalty to again find the end zone when Gilliam hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Wyatt with four seconds remaining. Wyatt scored on a two-point conversion run off the left side to provide for the final margin of 36-14.
Avery is scheduled to travel to Hays to take on North Wilkes for non-conference junior varsity football action this Thursday, Sept. 12.