WEST JEFFERSON — The 2015 football season came to a heartbreaking end for the Ashe County Huskies.
12th-seeded West Caldwell pulled off the upset, escaping with a 26-24 victory over the Huskies on Friday night.
Ashe was the first to find the end zone with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Colin Ellis to Judd Price at the 6:47 mark of the first. The extra point was no good, and would be the first of two misses that would play a pivotal role later in the game.
The Warriors scored 40 seconds later to take a 7-6 lead when quarterback Titus Tucker sprinted 73 yards for the score.
With 2:13 left in the first quarter, Tykise Davidson picked off a pass from Ellis and returned it for a score, but the play was brought back on an illegal block in the back on the return. On that play, senior wide receiver Maison McNeill was hit hard on the illegal block and was knocked out of the game.
The Ashe defense stood strong and forced a turnover on downs inside the Husky 30-yard line.
Late in the second quarter, Tucker scored his second rushing TD of the night, this one from five yards out with 49 seconds left to give West Caldwell a 13-6 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, senior Kendall Richardson blocked a punt, picked up the loose ball and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point was no good, leaving the Warriors with a slim 13-12 lead.
West Caldwell had the answer yet again. Tucker scored for the third time, this one a two-yard run to push the lead to 20-12 with 31 seconds left in the third.
On Ashe’s next drive, it took just over two minutes to find the end zone. Ellis tossed his second TD of the night, a 24-yard pass to sophomore Jake Richardson. Ashe went for two but came up short, trailing 20-18 with 10:22 remaining in the game.
Senior Luis Ramos recovered a fumble on the Warriors’ next possession, setting Ashe up with a chance to take its first lead since the first quarter.
However, the Warrior defense stood strong and forced a 21-yard field goal attempt from K. Richardson. The howling winds made the kick difficult and the senior couldn’t quite put it through the uprights, leaving Ashe still down by two.
With 2:50 left in the game, the Warriors went for it on fourth down and Tucker came through yet again. The quarterback scampered 59 yards for a touchdown and a 26-18 lead. The extra point was blocked, leaving Ashe with a chance to tie the score once again.
It took the Huskies a little over a minute to answer back. Ellis capped off the drive with a one-yard TD run.
Needing the two point conversion, Ellis dropped back but the pass was incomplete with 1:23 left in the game.
West Caldwell recovered the onside kick and ran all but 13 seconds off the clock.
Ashe had three deep pass attempts from near midfield, but could not pull off the miracle finish.
“We had chances, we had our opportunities but we just didn’t execute,” said Ashe County head coach Brian Hampton. “Defensively I thought we played a great game. We controlled their speed for the most part. Our defensive guys got after it and got stops.”
The Huskies saw its season end at 6-6 overall while West Caldwell advances to the second round with a 7-5 record.
The Warriors will travel to fourth seeded Franklin next Friday.
While Ashe’s season may be over, the team came a long way after losing so many key players from last year’s squad that repeated as conference champions.
“To lose 25 seniors and really 90-percent of our offense from last year’s team and to come back and finish 6-6, it’s not bad,” said Coach Hampton.
The Huskies will lose 16 seniors from this year’s team.
Other area scores
East Surry 55, Bessemer City 0
East Wilkes 48, South Robeson 14
Wilkes Central 47, Newton-Conover 40
Southwest Guilford 42, Watauga 39 in OT
Union Academy 27, North Stokes 7
Rosman 44, Alleghany 16
Shelby 62, West Wilkes 0
Swain County 41, Starmount 20
Mount Airy 10, Whiteville 6
Hibriten 43, East Gaston 28
West Stokes 45, Parkwood 21
East Burke 35, Forest Hills 27
Monroe 55, Forbush 7
Freedom 55, Morganton-Patton 18
Maiden 48, North Surry 15
Mountain Heritage 42, Providence Grove 7
South Caldwell 35, High Point Central 28
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87