Spartans fall in closing minute
The Spartans’ Senior Night ended in heartbreaking fashion as South Caldwell fell to conference rivals, the Watauga Pioneers 22-21 on a last minute, two-point conversion.
With 59.2 seconds left, Zach Williams blasted up the middle for a one-yard touchdown run to move the Pioneers within a point at 21-20. After a Spartan timeout, the Pioneers left their offense on the field and TJ Polous took a Aaron Dobbins pitch to the corner of the end zone and gave the Pioneers 22-21 victory.
The Pioneer touchdown drive began at their own seven-yard line with 3:37 left.
On a second down play from their 10-yard line, Dobbins found his tight end Hunter Issacs for a 47-yard gain to mid-field.
The Spartans stopped the Pioneer offense on the next three plays from scrimmage but on fourth down, the Pioneers flooded receivers down the right sideline only for Issacs to leak out on the left side of the formation for another huge reception on fourth down.
Issacs was without a catch until the final drive, but accounted for 84 of the Pioneers 93 yards on the game winning drive.
The Pioneer attack had an opportunity to tie the contest early in the fourth as well.
The Pioneers drove to the Spartan 35 with 9:02 remaining in the fourth, but on a deep pass from Dobbins, Phillip Adams tipped the ball in the air and Riley Cook came down with the interception on the Spartan eight-yard line.
The Spartans took to the ground game, chewing up time and yards as the running back by committee group of Mason Sides and Nick Hudson took six minutes off the clock and moved into Watauga territory.
But a holding call on a 12-yard Sides run moved the Spartans back to the Pioneer 40-yard line and forced the Nick Matthews punt to the Watauga 7-yard line and set up the game winning Pioneer drive.
The two teams traded punts to start the game but on their second possession, South Caldwell lit the scoreboard first as Trevor Soles found Gavin Reed on a 42-yard pass play down the right sideline to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead.
The Spartan defense forced a Pioneer fumble and Kurt Waibel pounced on the ball to set up the next South Caldwell score.
Soles found Mathews across the middle on a 35-yard pass play to put the Spartans up 14-0 with 6:59 to go before halftime.
But the Pioneers stormed back as Dobbins found Polous on a deep pass over the middle for a 30-yard score. The ensuing extra point attempt was blocked by the Spartans Elijah Davis.
The Pioneers took the second half kickoff and went 80 yards over 4:30 and scored when Dobbins called his own number with a third down one-yard QB sneak. The two point conversion was successful when Williams took it in for the Pioneers and tied the score at 14.
The Pioneers looked to take the lead on their next possession, but on a third down from near midfield, Spartan Marvin Villanueva forced a arrant Dobbins pass that Gavin Reed picked off.
On the next play from scrimmage Soles found Mathews on a 43-yard pass and catch to set up first and goal.
Reed carried the ball off right tackle on second down from the three to put the Spartans ahead 21-14.
With the loss, the Spartans are expected to go on the road to a high seed in the NCHSAA 4-A State Playoffs.
Spartan head coach, Butch Carter understands the tough playoff road that awaits the Spartans. "We start a new season now and we are going to have to battle adversity like we have all season to make a run," he said. "Tonight was a tough loss, I am proud of how hard we fought through the entire game."
Carter also looked back on a similar situation the Spartan program faced in 2005. "This reminds me of 2005 when we fell to Alexander Central the last game of the regular season on our Senior Night and faced them the next week in the first round of the playoffs. Three rounds later, we were playing for a shot at the Western Regional Finals."
WATAUGA 22, SOUTH CALDWELL 21
First Downs, ^14^16
WATAUGA^0^6^8^8 – 22
SOUTH CALDWELL^7^7^7^0 – 21
SC — Trevor Soles to Gavin Reed 42 pass (Mathews kick) 2:46.
SC — Soles to Nick Mathews 35 pass (Mathews kick) 6:59.
W — Aaron Dobbins to TJ Poulos 30 pass (kick blocked) 4:09.
W — Dobbins 1 run (Zach Williams run) 7:24.
SC — Reed 3 run (Mathews kick) 3:06.
W — Williams 1 run (Poulos run) 59.2.
RUSHING — Watauga: Williams 18-117, Poulos 5-41, Dobbins 8-8, Nate Ford 1-6. South Caldwell: Reed 14-76, Nick Hudson 8-48, Soles 2-(-1), Cias Hawkins 2-12, Adam Watson 2-5, Mason Sides 5-42.
PASSING — Watauga: Dobbins 18-31-2, 191. South Caldwell: Soles 4-15-1, 141 yards.
RECEIVING — Watauga: Ford 2-9, Polous 10-68, Cameron Baker 2-26, Justin Greer 1-4, Hunter Issacs 3-84. South Caldwell: Reed 1-42, Mathews 2-84, Noah Bradshaw 1-15.