WEST JEFFERSON — It’s all about the run for a conference title from here on out for the Ashe County Huskies. The brutal stretch of non-conference games came to a close last week and now the games really start to matter for championship aspirations.
The Huskies have arguably played the hardest non-conference schedule of any team in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference with a pair of unbeaten teams (3A Hibriten and 4A Alexander Central), another quality 4A opponent in Watauga and 2A program North Surry. Ashe is definitely a battle-tested team.
“I think playing tough teams will make you better if you rise to the occasion. It all depends on how our kids react to it. The scores looked lopsided but I think we have improved since week one,” said Ashe County head coach Brian Hampton. “I think we will remain confident in ourselves and go out and perform Friday night.”
The opponent for the first MVAC game of the season will be Alleghany. The Trojans are certainly no slouch despite being one of the smaller 1A teams in the state with 465 students according to the 2015 Average Daily Memberships (ADM) numbers released by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association last year. Alleghany enters the contest with a 4-0 record with wins over North Stokes (34-0), Grayson County, Va. (28-18), Bishop McGuinness (56-34) and South Stokes (35-20).
Playing on the road is also nothing new for the Trojans as they have been on the road for three of the four non-conference games.
The Trojans will look to get the rushing attack started early and often with running back Tristen Villarruel. The junior has ran for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns in the first four games.
He will have help in the backfield from Kaleb Redd, who has added 330 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Brett Pope has shown the ability to make some key throws for his team in the early season. The numbers are nothing like what Ashe County’s passing attack can put up, but Pope averages 20 yards per completion, so when the Trojans are going to the air, they are getting some big plays.
“Alleghany plays exactly how you would expect from a Frank Sessoms coached team. They’re good at what they do, they are very fundamentally sound, they have a large offensive line and two guys in the backfield that can really run hard,” said Coach Hampton. “We will have to tackle better and play better defensively up front.”
Offensively for the Huskies, Hampton just wants to see his guys go out and play sound, quality football and limit the mistakes
“We have to execute and take care of the football a little better. We’ve turned the ball over too much,” he said. “This will be a tough game against a very quality opponent that is good at what they do.”
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the defense will be without Tristen Jones for a third straight contest with a hand injury.
Kickoff from Ashe County High School will be at 7:30 p.m.
Week 6 area games
Carver at Asheville
Avery County at Charles D. Owen
Forbush at Cherryville
North Wilkes at East Wilkes
Starmount at Elkin
West Stokes at North Rowan
Bishop McGuinness at North Stokes
West Stanly at North Surry
Hibriten at South Caldwell
Alexander Central at South Iredell
Watauga at St. Stephens
Salisbury at Surry Central
Newton-Conover at West Caldwell
Wilkes Central at West Wilkes
East Surry at Atkins
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.