By Leah Potter
On Friday night, September 2nd, the Avery County High Vikings walked down their home stands carrying American flags as they came onto MacDonald Stadium’s field to face the number two-ranked school in Tennessee-the Hampton Bulldogs. Despite losing 36-27, Avery quickly erased any doubt that they could not only play the favored Bulldogs well, but also have a good chance to win.
Avery received the kickoff and its first possession did not disappoint. After a completion of downs that brought the Vikings to the 40 yard line, Quarterback Will Stanford sneaked out of the pocket and ran for 40 yards, moving the Vikings offense to the Hampton 20-yard line. Lukas Hughes then caught a touchdown pass from Stanford to put 6 points on the scoreboard, which was topped off with an extra point from Caden Panell who was 3 of 4 kicking extra points on the night.
Vikings fans’ voices were loudly heard and their hands raised in unified support of their team as directly after punter Kaden Knight sent the ball deep into Bulldog territory. Immediately after, Avery’s defense caused Hampton to go three-and-out with 7:33 left in the first quarter. On Avery’s second drive, its offensive momentum only continued to pick up. Stanford connected with wide receiver La’Trell Baker for a 45 yard completion, then Landon Hughes brought the score up to 13-0 with a flip into the end zone for a touchdown. Panell kicked the extra point and at the end of the first quarter, the Vikings were up 14-0.
The second quarter consisted of more exciting plays from Avery, with chants such as “Let’s Go Will” (Quarterback Will Stanford) and “Let’s Go ’Trell” (Wide Receiver La’Trell Baker) surging from the crowd. Avery ran for two more touchdowns in the half, the first coming off the goal line from Landon Hughes, although the extra point attempt was batted down by the Bulldogs. The Viking defense had managed to shut out Hampton’s offense for much of the first half. With only a few minutes remaining the Bulldogs drove down the field, capturing a touchdown and a two point conversion. Avery’s offense was not even slightly phased by Hampton putting points on the scoreboard, and with 50 seconds left Stanford again sneaked out of the pocket and took the ball home for another touchdown. At the half, the score was 27-8, Avery on top.
The Vikings started the second half as if they had not left the field. The Bulldogs received the kickoff, which was only to be fumbled by the receiver and recovered by Avery’s James Harris. The third quarter consisted of a defensive battle, Stanford and his offense had some astounding plays, but could not manage to punch the ball in for a score.
Hampton scored a touchdown again with 1:47 left, although the conversion kick was no good. The score remained 27-16 until the game wound down to the last eight minutes, and with it the Vikings momentum.
Hampton scored three more times, two of the scores consisting of touchdowns and one field goal. Avery had the last possession of the ball, but could not score as its heartbreaking game ended.
Even though it was a tough loss for the Vikings, it was a great effort coming off of a 36-point loss to Wilkes Central the previous week. Coach Ethan Farmer and his team optimistically look forward to taking the field again next week at McDowell High School in Marion versus the Titans. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.