West Buncombe – The Erwin Warriors (2-2) survived their first conference game with the Enka Jets (1-1) Friday night as they defeated Enka 20-14. The contest made for some edge-of-the-seat moments in which either team could have walked away with the “w” as both teams made their share of mistakes.
Erwin won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first. Erwin would return the kickoff from the seven-yard line to midfield before fumbling the ball and handing it to the Jets.But offsetting penalties forced a rekick-off where Warrior Ty Johnson (#7) returned from the 15 to the 50-yard line. This drive would culminate with Deajaha Ray (#6) running seven yards for an Erwin touchdown, but an attempt at a two-point converse failed, leaving the score 6-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter.
The Jets took their kick-off and returned it only four yards, starting their drive from their 23-yard line. Enka’s Senior Running Back Riley Pugh (24) injected hope into the drive with a huge run to the Warrior 45-yard line, a 22-yard gain. Nonetheless, the drive stalled due to a holding call against Enka, forcing them to punt.
A delayed game call against the Warriors, along with a busted play and a recovered fumble, forced Erwin to punt on a fourth and 20, allowing the Jets good field position at their own 43. This Enka drive ended at the start of the second quarter after the Jets failed to get a first down. The Warriors would turn over the ball on this drive as a fumble would give Enka the ball where Enka Senior Matt Roger (#8) would score three plays later and with a good point after attempt (PAT), the Jets took the lead at the 8:28 mark, 7-6.
About four minutes later, Erwin would score with 4:15 left in the first half off a Johnson 75-yard return, but again the two-point try failed, leaving the score 12-7 for Erwin. After Enka would have to punt when their drive stalled again, Erwin would take a big return run from their one to their 43 and make it even bigger with the aid of Enka when an unsportsmanlike call and a facemask resulted in a 30-yard penalty against the Jets, moving Erwin all the way down to the Jets 28. Ray ran for the touchdown for the Warriors and Johnson would complete the two-point conversion with less than a minute to go in the first quarter, giving Erwin a 20-7 lead going into the half.
Enka got the ball first after halftime and wasted no time in scoring. A 12-yard kickoff returned by Enka’s Lucas Gorden (#20) started the drive and ended with a Pugh 51-yard run two plays later and a good PAT to make the score 20-14 at 10:28 of the third with lots of time left for both teams to score.
The rest of the game belonged to the defense, errors, and officials who marked the game with a number of penalties, as the score remained unchanged until the end.The nailbiter came on Enka’s last drive attempt. With only 2:22 left in the game, they started their drive with a punt from Erwin. The Jets found themselves at fourth and nine at their own 21-yard line, leaving them no choice but to go for it.
A pass with 1:23 left on the clock was ruled as pass interference by Erwin, breathing new life into the Jets with a first and a 15-yard drive to get the ball to their 36. A 12-yard run by Pugh would get them to their 48 and a personal foul by Erwin found Enka at the Warriors’ 32 with 52 seconds on the clock. Erwin’s 20-yard line is occupied by Enka.The drive stalled as Erwin’s defense stiffened and the game was over.
Mike Sexton, a former Erwin football player, is in charge.The Jets came the closest they’ve come since 2008 to upsetting the Warriors, who are 15-2 in the last 17 years against the Jets.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game. A defensive struggle at times. I expected nothing less from a Mike Sexton-coached group. His kids played extremely well. They played so hard and very well could have won, but I have to give credit to our kids for playing extremely hard as well,” Erwin Head Coach Rodney Pruett told the Tribune. ”
“We made enough plays to win the game. I have to give credit to our defense. They stepped up big time. Through the years, we have not won games on that side of the ball, but tonight we had to grind out a victory, and we did that by being tough and hard-nosed. It was a slugfest upfront, and I felt like our kids really earned the victory on the defensive side of the ball. ”
Pruett admitted, “I am happy we won, but we have a long way to go. Film study will expose some mental mistakes we made regarding execution, so we will get back to work and try to get better. Our kids won the game and I’m happy for our coaches because they put a lot of time and effort into other people’s children and most often that goes unnoticed. ”
The Warriors (now 3-2) head to Asheville High School to take on the Cougars(3-1) in a conference matchup.