By Nathan Ham
The Watauga Pioneers received the top overall seed in the 3AA West Region, setting up a first round matchup with #16 Ashbrook this Friday night.
The Pioneers head into playoff action with an 11-0 overall record and finished a perfect 7-0 in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference.
Offensively, the Pioneers have been tough to stop for any team they have faced so far. Watauga has averaged 350 rushing yards per game and has scored 51 rushing touchdowns in 11 games.
Junior Bryce Satterfield led Watauga in rushing during the regular season with 163 carries for 1,090 yards and 14 touchdowns. Fellow junior Jaiden Bond always seemed to find a big play on the ground. He finished with 12 rushing touchdowns and 1,074 yards on just 67 carries, averaging over 16 yards per carry.
Quarterback Anderson Castle, who missed four games this season, added 49 carries for 498 yards and nine touchdowns. Through the air, Castle completed 16-of-30 passes for 358 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.
Senior Jackson Greene filled in admirably for Castle during his wrist injury, completing 25-of-41 passes for 612 yards and seven touchdowns while running for 651 yards and six touchdowns on 53 carries.
Through the air, Eli Suggs led the team with 264 receiving yards and five touchdowns on seven receptions. Bond led the team in catches with 15 that went for 210 yards and a touchdown. Zach West added eight catches for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also ran for 284 yards and five scores.
On the defensive side of the ball, Suggs led the Pioneers with 118 total tackles. Ben Critcher finished with 87 tackles, Greene had 53 tackles and a team-high five interceptions, West finished with 49 tackles and three interceptions, Braeden Myers had 48 tackles and Bond had 44 tackles.
The Ashbrook Greenwave will make the trip to Boone from Gastonia and will look to pull off a major upset. The Greenwave enter the game with a 5-6 overall record and the team finished 3-4 in the Big South 3A Conference.
Ashbrook is certainly battle-tested playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state that featured conference champion Hunter Huss (11-0, 7-0 in conference), Kings Mountain (9-2, 6-1 conference) and Crest (8-3, 5-2 conference). All three of those teams are ranked in the top 30 in the state according to MaxPreps.com, regardless of classification.
Kickoff from Jack Groce Stadium will be at 7:30 p.m. The winner of this contest will face the winner of #9 Asheville and #8 Parkland.
3AA West Playoff Bracket
#16 Ashbrook at #1 Watauga
#9 Asheville at #8 Parkland
#12 Central Cabarrus at #5 Weddington
#13 Southwest Guilford at #4 South Iredell
#14 Marvin Ridge at #3 Mount Tabor
#11 Alexander Central at #6 Erwin
#10 Sun Valley at #7 Cox Mill
#15 A.L. Brown at #2 A.C. Reynolds