For the few Ashe County fans that braved the constant rainfall, it was not the way anyone hoped the football season would come to an end for a great group of seniors and underclassmen.
Bunker Hill scored 13 unanswered points in the second half to take a 20-17 win for only the Bears’ third road playoff win in school history.
“Our kids fought hard, they played well enough to win. This is a very special group, this group of seniors have hopefully laid the foundation for something year in and year out in this situation where we can win playoff games,” said Ashe Head Coach Brian Hampton.
Ashe’s running game came to life in the first quarter. Following a Bunker Hill punt, Johnathan Cox ripped off a 23-yard touchdown and Kendall Richardson nailed an extra point to put the Huskies ahead, 7-0, with 3:38 left in the quarter.
The Bears answered back with a 10-yard TD from Dijoun Huitt. The extra point was missed, keeping Ashe in front by a single point.
Just under three minutes into the second quarter, linebacker Cullen Ashley recovered a fumble inside Bunker Hill’s territory.
Ashe made them pay with Cox’s second TD of the night, this one from eight yards out. The extra point gave the Huskies a 14-6 advantage with 7:50 left in the second quarter.
Richardson got the Huskies three more points in the final second of the half with a perfect 37-yard field goal.
The Huskies opened the second half with its second pooch kickoff of the night that was recovered to give Ashe the ball.
Bunker Hill responded with a crucial interception by J’len Wilson just three plays later.
Jacob Blevins made sure that turnover would not hurt Ashe by intercepting a pass of his own at the 9:48 mark of the third.
The Bears were able to punch the ball in from five yards out with Colton Chapman on a quarterback keeper late in the quarter. The two-point conversion was stopped. Ashe maintained a 17-12 lead going to the fourth quarter.
Neither team flinched in the fourth quarter until just over one minute left when Chapman carried the ball into the end zone from three yards out to give Bunker Hill a 20-17 lead after a successful two-point conversion.
On the final drive of the game, Ashe got a good kickoff return from Matthew Hamilton to bring the ball to midfield.
However, the Bear defense came up big with an interception from Justin Bowman with 1:13 left in the game.
Bunker Hill was able to melt the clock and secure its spot in the second round of the playoffs.
Ashe ended the season with a 7-5 record overall. Bunker Hill travels to Gastonia on Friday to face Hunter Huss High School.
The Huskies finished the game with 188 total yards while Bunker Hill had 185.
Cox wrapped up his outstanding career with 32 carries for 88 yards and two scores.
Connor Bowers was held in check as he completed 7-18 passes for 125 yards and two interceptions.
Cox had two catches out of the backfield, as did senior fullback Brandon Wingler.
Wingler has been Cox’s lead blocker for two seasons and has played a huge part in why Cox became the top runningback in the Mountain Valley Conference last year and this year.
Bradley Lucas had one grab for 25 yards. Maison McNeill had one catch for 15 yards and Jacob Worley had one catch for 16 yards. Blevins had the final Ashe reception for six yards.
On the other side of the ball, seniors Dustin Guy and Michael Elliott had great games. Guy led Ashe with 11 tackles and Elliott finished with eight tackles and an interception. Shawn Baker had seven tackles and Evan Walker had six tackles and two tackles for losses. Hamilton finished with six tackles and two tackles for loss while Blevins finished with four tackles and an interception.
Ashley recorded three tackles and a fumble recovery in his final game. McNeill had three tackles and Alex Laws finished up with two tackles.
Bunker Hill found a way to win the game in spite of committing six turnovers and having fewer yards than Ashe.
“I don’t think the better team won,” added Hampton.
Regardless of how the playoff season ended, the team certainly has to be proud of winning the school’s third MVAC championship.
“This is a great group of young men. This group of seniors, they’ve got a piece of history in the gym now when we get the banner up. Hopefully they’ve laid the foundation for better things to come,” Coach Hampton said.