Dudley Derails WHS, 55-20 (2016-11-26 18:19:28)

GREENSBORO - Looks can be deceiving, and Friday night's second round state playoff game between the Watauga High football team and Greensboro-Dudley falls in that category.


If anyone just glances at the final score of Friday night's game, their first reaction would be, "no surprise, the Panthers blew WHS out, 55-20." But if they care to look a little closer, they would see just how tight the contest really was.

Yes, the Pioneers (9-4) never led, and yes, they spotted Greensboro Dudley (12-1) an early 21-0 lead. But they may also be interested in knowing that WHS, which put together its longest scoring drive of the season (19-plays, 81-yards and it took 10:02 off the clock) just before halftime, kept chipping away and only trailed 35-20 with 8:36 left to play.

Unfortunately, the Panthers wore WHS down and scored three unanswered touchdowns in less than three minutes (2:49 to be exact), to pull away.

"We certainly woke them up a bit," said WHS coach Ryan Habich, who is 34-16 during his four-year stay with the Pioneers. "I was very proud of the way our guys stayed with it. They never hung their heads when we fell behind, 21-0. Then we put that long scoring drive together just before halftime, and it gave us some momentum."

"It was basically what we've done all year," said WHS senior Hamilton Castle. "The (offensive) line did a great job blocking up front. They opened the holes, and it gave us the room to pick up four, five yards on every play. That allowed us to eat time off the clock, and we finally scored. And we did it against the best football team we played all year."

The Panthers will play at Davie County in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A Western Semifinals in Mocksville, N.C., next Friday night. Davie County (12-1) advanced by knocking off Kannapolis-Brown 38-19 Friday night (Dudley defeated Davie County 32-6 in the regular season).

The Pioneers racked up 317 yards with 20 first downs against Dudley's top-ranked defense. Evan Suggs and Castle, playing in their final game for the Pioneers, led the ground game with 190 rushing yards and three TDs.

"Watauga did what it was suppose to do," said Dudley coach Stephen Davis, who has his team in the state semifinals for the 10th time during his 13-year stay with the program. "They do an excellent job running that offense (the triple option). We only had the ball three, maybe four times, in the first half. But we scored on a couple of those possessions."

The Panthers, who only had four possessions in the first half, scored three times---one of those was a fake punt early in the second quarter that gave the Panthers what seemed like a commanding 21-0 lead.

"They just had too many athletes," Habich said. "They have the big play at their disposal on almost every play. They wore us down as the game went on. It was a physical game, and some of our guys like Suggs, Hamilton and Corey (West) played hurt most of the second half."

Suggs finished with 110 yards on 27 carries with a pair of TDs; Castle had 80 yards on 16 touches and a score.

And those two hooked up on a 38-yard catch-and-run that made it 35-20 just before the Panthers put the contest out of reach.

A failed on-side kick attempt set up Thomas Young's 51-yard run, making it 41-20 just 16 seconds after Suggs scored for WHS, and Young's two-yard run with 5:54 left made it, 47-20. The Panthers only touched the ball six times during that backbreaking stretch.

"We just wore down," said Suggs, who played hurt the majority of the night. "They were the biggest, fastest, and strongest team I have ever played against. We never gave up tonight, especially the seniors. We knew this was our last game. And that's the beauty of this team. We're not going to give up."

But big plays were the difference Friday night, and senior Brion Seagraves was definitely a difference-maker against the Pioneers.

He scored on Dudley's 43-yard fake punt, he returned a kick-off 65 yards for a TD, and he also had a 36-yard interception return that set up Dudley's second TD with 2:42 left in the first quarter, making it 14-0.

The Pioneers turned it over twice, handing the Panthers 14 points. In turn, senior defensive back Kaden Watkins picked off a Henson Hooker pass in the third quarter and returned it 61 yards, setting up WHS' second TD.

The Pioneers punched it in 11-plays later from the Dudley 39-yard-line on Suggs' one-yard run, making it 28-14. But the Panthers answered 14 seconds later on Seagraves 65-yard kick-off return.

"It's very hard to contain a team like this for an entire game," Habich said. "But like I said eariler, I'm proud of the way our kids responded. And this was a great experience for all of our players, especially the freshmen we brought up. We gave a lot of those guys a chance to play on special teams. It really opened their eyes, and it's a great preparation for next year."

Freshman Jaiden Bond caught three passes for 25 yards, and freshman Eli Suggs played on WHS' final possession of the game and finished with 24 yards on four carries.

"Evan was not feeling well after he scored his last touchdown (on that 38-yard run-and-catch)," Habich said. "So, we put his brother in there, and Eli really did a great job hitting the hole. He ran hard. This was a great experience for our players. And we had a great season. It's a good way to go into the off season."

NOTES: The Pioneers' nine wins were the most in a single season since 2007, and they also posted their fourth straight winning season, something WHS hasn't done since the early 1970's (1972-75). Watkins led the secondary with a team-high five interceptions.

Greensboro Dudley 55, Watauga 20

Watauga 0 7 0 13 — 20
Dudley 14 7 7 27 — 55

Scoring summary

First quarter
DHS—Zellous 18 pass from Hooker (Kick failed)
DHS—Young 7 run (White run)

Second quarter
DHS—Seagraves 43 run on fake punt (Patterson kick)
WHS—Castle 1 run (Densham kick)

Third quarter
DHS—Hooker 1 run (Patterson kick)

Fourth quarter
WHS—Suggs 2 run (Densham kick)
DHS—Seagraves 66 kickoff return (Patterson kick)
WHS—Suggs 38 run (Kick failed)
DHS—Young 51 run (Run failed)
DHS—Rush 1 run (Kick blocked)
DHS—Rush 2 run (Rush run)

Team Statistics:

                                             Watauga Dudley
First downs                                   20      12
By rushing                                    14       9
By passing                                     5       3
By penalty                                     1       0
Rushes-yards                            51-218 24-276
Avg per rush                                4.2    11.5
Passing yards                               99      52
Passes                                     12-23-1 3-11-1
Avg. per att.                               4.3     4.7
Avg. per comp                          . 8.2    17.3
Total plays-yard                       64-317 37-328
Avg. per play                            4.9      8.8
Penalties-yards                          2-10   4-35
Punts-avg                              2-39.5   0-0
Fumbles-lost                             0-0     1-0

Individuals Statistics:

Rushing: Watauga—Ev. Suggs 27-110, Castle 16-80, Eli Suggs 4-24, West 4-4; Dudley—Young 6-106, Rush 5-47, Hooker 6-45, Seagraves 1-43, Perkins 5-26, Zellous 1-9.
Passing: Watauga—H. Castle 12-22-1 99, A. Castle 1-0-0 0; Dudley—Hooker 3-11-1 52.
Receiving: Watauga—West 5-47, Bond—3-25, Williams 2-16; Dudley—Zellous 2-33, Brown 1-19.