TAYLORSVILLE, N.C. — Alexander Central and Ashe County made their first ever meeting on the gridiron a memorable one.
The Cougars nearly rallied from 31 points down in the fourth quarter, but the Husky defense did just enough to hang on for the 45-38 win.
“We played hard the first three weeks and finally the kids were rewarded for their hard work with a win,” said Ashe County head coach Brian Hampton. “When our kids had to make plays, they stepped up and made plays.
Alexander Central scored first on a two-yard run from Devante Clark with 5:59 to go in the first quarter to take a 6-0 lead.
On Ashe’s next drive, the Cougars got a key sack on third down that forced a fourth-and-goal from the 15. On the next play, the Huskies drew a pass interference call that brought Ashe to the eight-yard line, but the team still needed a big fourth down play.
Junior quarterback Colin Ellis dropped back and found Judd Price for the touchdown with 1:22 left in the first quarter. Kendall Richardson’s extra point put the Huskies in front, 7-6.
The Cougars struck quickly off the arm of backup QB Gunnar Anderson. Anderson connected on a 49-yard TD to Matt Fedota with 9:06 left in the first half. The two-point conversion put Alexander Central in front, 14-7.
It took the Huskies less than two minutes to tie the score. Ellis capped off the drive with another TD pass to Price, this one from 25 yards out at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter.
With 1:44 left in the half, the Huskies faked a punt on its own 28-yard line and converted another big fourth down.
The fake punt paid off when Ellis found Price for a 12-yard TD with 1:02 to go until the halftime break.
Ashe nearly added a touchdown on the last play of the half. Alex Richardson recovered a fumble with a second remaining, giving the Huskies one shot at the end zone from 30 yards out. A throw to Price was caught, but he was out of bounds. Ashe held a 20-14 lead at the half.
The third quarter was all Huskies. The period started with the Cougars fumbling on its second play of the half deep in its own territory.
Husky running back Skye Sullivan powered into the end zone from eight yards out to extend the lead to 26-14.
On the Cougars’ next drive, the special teams attempted to fake a punt of their own, but the Huskies sniffed it out and stopped the runner short of the first down.
Four plays later on yet another fourth down conversion, Ellis connected with Price for a 29-yard gain to give the Huskies a first-and-goal opportunity.
Ellis tossed a wide open pass to Maison McNeill with 6:29 left in the third to give Ashe a 32-14 advantage.
The Huskies were not done.
Ashe forced another turnover, this one on the first Cougar play from scrimmage after the kickoff.
On the first offensive play, Ellis fired a strike to McNeill for a 26-yard touchdown and completely silenced the home crowd. The Huskies took a commanding 38-14 lead.
The turnover bug continued to plague the Cougars. Starting quarterback Landon Hammer was stripped of the ball on a run down field and Price was there for the recovery.
The Husky offense continued clicking on all cylinders through the air. Ellis tossed his sixth TD of the night, this one to sophomore Grant Thompson from nine yards out with 4:21 left to play. Ashe was up 45-14 in a game that looked to be well in hand.
Defensive back Joseph Lowder picked off a Cougar pass in the end zone with a little under three minutes left to play in the third to end a potential scoring drive.
Lowder did it again on the next Cougar drive, intercepting another pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
After that, Alexander Central’s potent offense finally came to life.
Bryson Godfrey ripped off an 18-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion brought the Cougars to within three scores at 45-22 with 7:59 left in the game.
The Cougars perfectly executed an onside kick to put the offense right back on the field.
It took Alexander Central a minute and 30 seconds to score again. Anderson threw a 20-yard strike to Jacob Parsons for the score. Another successful two-point conversion made the score 45-30.
The next Cougar onside kick attempt was recovered by Ashe with a little under seven minutes remaining.
However, the Alexander Central defense rose to the occasion and picked off a pass from Ellis.
Three minutes later, the Cougars were back in the end zone with a nine-yard TD pass from Anderson to Evan Ganter. The two-point conversion was good again and after 24 straight points from the Cougars, it was now a one-score game at 45-38.
Desperately clinging to a touchdown lead, Ashe hoped to be able to run out the clock and take a win back up the mountain.
Ashe was able to pick up one first down and keep the clock running a bit, but the Cougar defense held just enough to force a Husky punt with 1:21 left in the game.
Alexander Central started driving down the field. A handful of short passes brought the Cougars into Husky territory, but with no timeouts, the time was slowly ticking away.
With under 30 seconds remaining, junior safety Matthew Greer picked off a pass from Anderson to seal the victory.
Ashe moved to 1-3 overall while Alexander Central dropped to 1-3.
Ellis completed 19-of-36 passes for 326 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
Sullivan finished the game with 75 rushing yards on 12 carries with one TD.
Through the air, McNeill and Price both had outstanding games. McNeill finished with 10 grabs for 192 yards and two touchdowns while Price had six catches for 119 yards and three scores. Thompson added two catches for 12 yards and a TD and Sullivan had one catch for three yards.
Defensively, the Huskies forced six turnovers.
Next week, Ashe will open conference play on the road at Alleghany.
- There were 889 total yards of offense from both teams. Alexander Central had 514 yards of total offense while Ashe County had 375.
- The Cougars picked up 23 first downs while the Huskies had 18.
- The Huskies were 4-for-6 on fourth-down conversions and scored touchdowns on all four of those drives.
Other area scores
Avery County 31, North Wilkes 14
West Stokes 24, Walkertown 21
Starmount 14, Thomasville 13
Bishop McGuinness 40, South Stokes 13
East Wilkes 48, Forbush 15
Surry Central 20, Mount Airy 0
West Wilkes 49, North Iredell 48, 2OT
Patrick County (VA) 22, North Stokes 17
North Surry 56, Atkins 16
West Caldwell 62, Hickory Christian Academy 14
Chuckey-Doak (TN) 39, Johnson County (TN) 26
Glenvar (VA) 21, Grayson County (VA) 0
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87