The preseason for the Avery Vikings reached its finish line last week as the team competed in a pair of full-contact scrimmages against a team other than itself for the first time in the 2019 season.
Avery welcomed a quartet of teams to The Mountain on Tuesday, Aug. 13, as Enka, Patton, Rosman and Happy Valley (Tenn.) trekked to Newland for a round-robin set of scrimmages. Three days later, the Vikings hopped on the activity bus and journeyed to Millers Creek to take part in the Wilkes County Jamboree, where it squared off against the East Wilkes Cardinals in an unofficial half of football.
Vikings impress in home scrimmage
NEWLAND — Avery squared off with four different clubs at MacDonald Stadium for its lone home scrimmage before its regular season opener on Aug. 23 against Ashe County.
The Vikings opened play on one half of the stadium turf against Patton High School. Avery’s offense opened strong, as it scored three times on its first set of 10 plays, scoring on a pair of Troy Hoilman touchdown passes, as well as on a slant pass that found paydirt.
Defensively, the Vikings surrendered only one touchdown to Patton, but also picked off a Panthers pass during the 10-play series.
In Avery’s second matchup against Rosman, the Big Red scored both a rushing and passing touchdown, including a 30-yard post route that reached the end zone. Defensively, Avery forced and recovered a fumble, and later scored on another 20-yard touchdown pass into the corner of the end zone.
Avery scored multiple times in its matchup against Enka, doing so both on the ground and through the air, highlighted by a long 38-yard touchdown strike, and found success in a matchup with Happy Valley, as a number of players had the opportunity to rotate in and see snaps to wrap up the scrimmage action.
“I thought Tuesday we did some very good things. I thought our defense showed a great deal of improvement. I thought we were much more physical on both sides of the football, and that showed in the trenches where we were physical up front in the front seven, much more so than we could be a year ago, no doubt,” Avery head coach Mac Bryan said of his team following the scrimmage. “I thought offensively that Troy made some tremendous throws in some tight windows, and we had a pretty good night. We still things we have to gain consistency with, but overall it was a pretty good night.”
The five-team scrimmage setting allowed the Vikings to see a variety of offensive and defensive schemes and fronts from teams that will run vastly different formations during the season, a taste of what the Big Red will likely experience over the course of its 11-game schedule.
“You see a lot of different personnel, but you see a lot of things schematically, one thing after another like that, and that’s really good if you can figure that out, especially as an offensive line or defensive secondary, who has to adjust to different types of formations, different types of offenses and up front to different types of schemes,” Bryan added. “I thought our line did a pretty dang good job of handling that.”
Vikings tackle Cardinals at Wilkes County Jamboree
MILLERS CREEK — Avery journeyed to West Wilkes High School Aug. 16 for 2019 Wilkes County Jamboree. Since the Vikings will take on both West and North Wilkes during the non-conference portion of its regular season schedule in the coming weeks, the powers-that-be pitted the Vikings against the East Wilkes Cardinals. East finished the 2018 season with a 7-5 record and qualified for the 1AA state playoffs before losing in the opening round to Western Highlands Conference member Polk County.
Avery handled the Cardinals in last season’s Wilkes County Jamboree in Moravian Falls, and in its half of action on this evening, the Vikings emerged with a narrow 14-12 victory on the scoreboard.
“We played okay, but our defensive communication wasn’t as good as it was on Tuesday night. We had a couple of people who were out for the scrimmage, and that makes a difference in communication when you have a couple of kids playing out of position,” Bryan explained. “I think offensively we weren’t as sharp as we were Tuesday night. We were still able to win on the scoreboard, for what that was worth, but as far as being in sync, we just weren’t as much in sync as we were on Tuesday night and I’m not sure exactly why. The lines played fairly well, but we didn’t make some of the plays and we dropped a few balls. We’ve got to make those plays when they’re there, and we just didn’t make as many plays.”
One notable factor Bryan referred to which may have contributed to how all of the teams performed was the weather, specifically the high heat and humidity at the Blackhawks’ stadium throughout a sultry evening.
“I thought the heat bothered us a little bit. That’s not an excuse because you’ve got to overcome that, but I do think it may have affected us,” Bryan noted. “We’ve got to make sure that in the future that doesn’t happen. It makes a big difference that we get to play at home our first two weeks, then go over to North Buncombe for our third game above Asheville before coming back home again for our fourth game. By the time we go off the mountain it’s going go be week five, but the heat wave is bound to be broken by then to where it isn’t that bad. The schedule sets up for us pretty good as far as the heat is concerned.”
Avery opens the season at home this Friday, Aug. 23, against Ashe, a team with a number of weapons on offense that will pose as an early test for the Big Red.
“I think we have some confidence as a football team to do some good things. It’s important to play well early, and we continue to believe that way. Ashe beat us to death last year, but we helped them an awful lot by having a lot of turnovers and snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head about four times in the first quarter, getting in the hole badly before we could even have an offensive series really,” Bryan said. “Ashe is a good football team and has been competitive for the past several years. They have a couple of talented receivers and a young quarterback who throws it around pretty good. They lost 16 or 18 seniors, but they’re still a solid program and good football team. It’ll give us a chance to see where we’re at.”
Kickoff for the Huskies and Vikings is slated for 7:30 p.m.