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End of an Era: Watauga hosts Avery County for 50th and Possibly Final Time

By Nathan Ham

At least for now, the Watauga and Avery County football rivalry is coming to a close this Friday night as the Vikings travel to Boone to take on the Pioneers.

The two teams do not have each other on the schedule after the 2018 season with Avery County deciding against continuing the rivalry.

“I think we needed to play some schools our size to get back to where we need to be. There’s a big difference between having 1,400 kids and having 580 kids,” said Avery County head coach Mac Bryan. “We will certainly entertain bringing the series back in a couple years and hopefully that will be the case.”

The feeling isn’t quite the same coming from Watauga’s point of view.

“They (Avery) elected not to play us anymore. You never say never but it’s not something that’s going to be renewed for a while,” said Watauga head coach Ryan Habich.

This will be the 50th game played between the two rival counties with Watauga holding a 36-13-1 lead in the series.

“It has been a big rivalry over the years. We play for a bucket and that has always been important over the years. To be able to win this last one and keep it here is big for the kids,” said Habich.

It has been all Pioneers for the last six years. The last Avery County victory was a 21-0 win over the Pioneers in 2011. In 2010, the Vikings also got the best of the Pioneers with a 28-14 victory.

The rivalry started with Watauga winning the first 20 games from 1968-1987. Avery County got their first win over Watauga in 1988, a 26-7 win. The rivalry really shifted from the 1980s to the 1990s. During the 90s, Avery County dominated the series, winning 9 of the 11 games. However, games shifted back to Watauga’s favor from 2000 to 2017. The Pioneers have won 13 of the 18 games, including the last six.

Watauga (2-0) comes into this game off of a pair of impressive victories over T.C. Roberson in week one and rival Ashe County in week two. So far, the Pioneers have not missed a beat with backup quarterback Jackson Greene playing most of the first game and all of he second game after an injury to Anderson Castle that has put him on the sidelines at least through the end of Watauga’s non-conference string of games.

“For us, we need to keep getting better, eliminate the mistakes that we are making and get better each week. Even though this is a rivalry game, we want to be peaking when we get to conference play,” said Coach Habich.

The Pioneers did get a little bit of good news on the injury front his week as running back Bryce Satterfield will be back for Watauga after missing the Ashe County game with an injury. Unfortunately, the Pioneers found out they will be without starting nose guard Adrian Cassidy after an injury suffered during last week’s game.

“We’re still fighting that injury bug a little bit but hope to be healthy for conference play,” Habich said.

For Avery County, the Vikings (0-2) were beaten in their first game by the Ashe County Huskies, 50-7. Last week, Avery kept things closer with McDowell for a while before the Titans pulled away for a 52-27 win.

Heading into this game with Watauga, Coach Bryan says Watauga is a difficult team to prepare for because they do so many things really well.

“They’re a very good football team. They do a great job offensively and they do a number of things that give you problems,” said Bryan. “Offensively and defensively they are very sound at what they do.”

Coach Bryan, who is in his first year as the varsity football coach at Avery County, says that this season is a bit of a rebuilding year for the Vikings.

“We’re working hard and getting better every week. What we’re trying to do is improve the basic things. We’ve got to tackle better and communicate better on defense,” Bryan said.

So far this season, Avery County has avoided the injury bug, but with any sport, football especially, that could change at any time.

“We’re fairly healthy right now, we just hope we are after this game. We don’t have a lot of depth but we’ve been fortunate so far with no injuries,” said Bryan.

For the Vikings to have a chance at upsetting their rival and snapping their six-game losing skid to the Pioneers, Coach Bryan says his team has to win the turnover battle, limit penalties, cut down on missed assignments and play solid on special teams.

“We’re just going to go out and play hard, try to get better and hopefully catch some breaks and see what happens,” said Bryan.

Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. from Jack Groce Stadium at Watauga High School.

Rivalry History (scores courtesy of CarolinaPreps)

2017: Watauga 49, Avery County 8

2016: Watauga 55, Avery County 21

2015: Watauga 34, Avery County 14

2014: Watauga 43, Avery County 6

2013: Watauga 35, Avery County 0

2012: Watauga 35, Avery County 20

2011: Avery County 21, Watauga 0

2010: Avery County 28, Watauga 14

2009: Watauga 35, Avery County 12

2008: Watauga 28, Avery County 14

2007: Watauga 31, Avery County 14

2006: Watauga 34, Avery County 13

2005: Avery County 18, Watauga 0

2004: Avery County 38, Watauga 0

2003: Watauga 22, Avery County 21

2002: Watauga 19, Avery County 13

2001: Watauga 25, Avery County 7

2000: Avery County 28, Watauga 23

1999: Avery County 46, Watauga 13

1998: Avery County 35, Watauga 21

1997: Avery County 21, Watauga 14

1996: Watauga 23, Avery County 6

1995: Avery County 21, Watauga 19

1994: Watauga 20, Avery County 6

1993: Avery County 14, Watauga 12

1992: Avery County 8, Watauga 7

1991: Avery County 8, Watauga 0

1990: Avery County 25, Watauga 6

1989: Watauga 14, Avery County 3

1988: Avery County 26, Watauga 7

1987: Watauga 12, Avery County 7

1986: Watauga 19, Avery County 0

1985: Watauga 24, Avery County 0

1984: Watauga 23, Avery County 0

1983: Watauga 40, Avery County 0

1982: Watauga 12, Avery County 6

1981: Watauga 13, Avery County 7

1980: Watauga 19, Avery County 7

1979: Watauga 0, Avery County 0

1978: Watauga 14, Avery County 7

1977: Watauga 14, Avery County 0

1976: Watauga 18, Avery County 6

1975: Watauga 20, Avery County 14

1974: Watauga 30, Avery County 6

1973: Watauga 20, Avery County 6

1972: Watauga 30, Avery County 16

1971: Watauga 21, Avery County 12

1970: Watauga 42, Avery County 12

1969: Watauga 26, Avery County 0

1968: Watauga 26, Avery County 0