With a pair of impressive victories under its belt, the Avery Vikings (2-0) make its first road trip of the regular season this Friday, Sept. 6, when the squad ventures to Weaverville to square off against North Buncombe in non-conference action. The Black Hawks (2-0) have easily handled its first two opponents, scoring at least 60 points in both of the team’s victories this season over Patton and Madison.
Avery has also displayed offensive punch through the opening two weeks of the regular season, however, averaging 52 points per contest in blowout victories over Ashe County and West Wilkes. The Big Red also threw a number of haymakers defensively in its two wins, forcing eight turnovers in its two victories.
The Black Hawks and Vikings have never met on the gridiron.
Scouting the Black Hawks
The North Buncombe Black Hawks are coached by Brandon Allen and are members of the Western Mountain Athletic Conference. North finished with a 6-6 record in 2018 and qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in four years, falling in the first round of the playoffs to Northwest Cabarrus last fall. Despite the early exit, the Black Hawks, who won only one game in 2017 before improving with six wins last season, were considered one of the most surprising teams of their conference and the region overall.
North returned 13 starters overall to its 2019 club, seven on defense and six on offense, utilizes a Shotgun Wing-T offensive formation and an Odd Stack formation on the defensive side of the football.
Last season, North was led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Caden Higgins and Skylar Jutras, but with both players’ graduations, the running burden has fallen squarely on the shoulders of junior Joe Jones. Jones is a two-way player who also has made plays on the defensive side of the football this season, but offensively he has been the story for North, gaining 487 yards on only 35 carries through his first two games, with seven touchdowns.
Calling the signals at quarterback for North has been Rayce Pickens, who threw only three passes in last week’s 63-0 shutout win at Madison. Two of the three passes went for touchdowns, however. Pickens also threw the ball just four times in the season opener against Patton, completing three.
Pivotal players who will see action and look to make a difference for the Black Hawks are senior offensive tackle Bryen Freeman, junior tight end/linebacker Noah Ponder, senior linebacker Micah Wilson and senior running back and defensive back Wesley Parran.
Injuries on defense were hard to overcome for North in 2018, but returning players such as sophomore Ben Wyatt and junior Eli Lanning have already paid dividends in bolstering the team’s production at the line of scrimmage, opening holes for Jones to scurry through in the team’s first two wins.
The low down
Both Avery and North Buncombe have shown explosive ability offensively, albeit in different ways. Avery has sailed over opponents with its air attack behind the proficiency of quarterback Troy Hoilman and a bevy of wide receivers, throwing knockout punches in the form of scoring pass after scoring pass play to put opponents Ashe and West Wilkes down for the count. North has done its damage on the ground, bludgeoning both Patton and Madison with Jones and the run game which has shown no signs of slowing down two weeks into the season.
The offseason weight training and conditioning program implemented by head coach Mac Bryan and the Avery coaching staff will see its sternest test of the young season with a road game off The Mountain this week. At the same time, however, the Black Hawks have not faced a defense thus far that can shut down the run game as Avery has through two contests.
For Avery to win its third consecutive contest this week, it must overcome a team that will have more players on its sideline as a 3A school, meaning that North will have greater ability to substitute more freely and keep players fresher than the smaller numbers that Avery will take to Weaverville. However, both sides can only play 11 players on the field at once, and if the Viking conditioning is up to the task, it should be able to hang with the Black Hawks.
Sure tackling by the defense will be paramount in shutting down the North shotgun Wing-T offense which will look to feature Jones and the running attack early and often. Players such as Levi Andrews and Steven Deyton have been stalwarts on the defensive line through two games, and will need to continue their stellar play in week three.
Avery took advantage of a subpar West Wilkes secondary to the tune of more than 390 passing yards in last week’s win. Employing the adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” expect the Big Red to continue to take to the air and test the North secondary as well, seeking to strike for big offensive plays from the likes of Ty Smith, Jonas Bowman, Jesse Jones, Lucas Andrews and Chad Giarrusso.
By the Numbers
0 – number of punt attempts by the Vikings in its lopsided victory over the Blackhawks from West Wilkes last week
2 – touchdown receptions by NBHS’s Christian King in last week’s win over Madison
6 – passing yards by West Wilkes against the Avery defense in last week’s 51-6 Viking victory
8 – touchdown receptions by Avery WR Ty Smith through two games to lead the club
11 – touchdown passes through two games by Avery QB Troy Hoilman this season
20 – yards per pass completion by the Vikings against last week’s opponent
81 – yardage of the opening kickoff return for a touchdown by North Buncombe in its season-opening win at home against Patton
170 – rushing yards by NBHS running back Joe Jones at halftime of last week’s win over Madison
243.5 – average rushing yards per game by North’s Jones thus far this season
356 – average passing yards per game by Avery’s Hoilman in the Big Red’s first two wins
1,036 – yards of total offense amassed by Avery thus far in 2019
Read next week’s edition of The AJT for a recap of Avery’s game at North Buncombe, as well as a preview of next week’s non-conference home game against North Wilkes.