Sometimes the game of football can be very simple. When the clocked ticked to zero Friday night in Morganton , the team that blocked and tackled the best got the victory, that’s the simple truth.
Alexander Central stayed undefeated by holding off Freedom 33-28 in a Northwestern Conference showdown. For the Cougars, it was all about blocking and tackling a little better than the Patriots. The two teams entered the game tied atop the league standings at 2-0. The winner was going to control their own destiny in the race for a league title and it got off to a wonderful start for the visitors from Taylorsville.
AC won the coin toss and elected to take the kick. They marched it 56 yards in 6 plays. Quarterback Gunnar Anderson hit Kendall Flowers with a strike from 30 yards to take the lead just 1:51 into the game. For only the second time all season, Christan Romero kicked a PAT and the visitors led 7-0.
Freedom was stopped on their first possession and forced to punt after three plays. The Blue and Gold went 70 yards in 7 plays when Anderson strolled into the end zone through a gaping hole off left tackle and the Cougars led 13-0 after the PAT hit the upright. What followed was a back and forth game between two teams that do it in different ways.
Freedom would get on the scoreboard with a 9 play drive covering 54 yards after the Cougars failed to convert a fourth down attempt. Patriot Sophomore QB Jayden Birchfield hit Christian Fox from four yards and the lead was cut to 13-7. There would no more scoring before half despite both teams threatening.
The home standing team was stuffed by the motivated Cougar defense to start the second half forcing a punt. ACHS took the ball on their own 45 and got a 51 yard touchdown from Gunnar Anderson when he sent three receivers and a motion man to his left on third down. Anderson kept the ball and ran down the right sideline for a score and the Cougars were putting a damper on the Freedom Homecoming leading 19-7 when again the conversion failed.
Freedom would put together a 73 yard drive in 12 plays aided by a controversial pass interference call against Alexander Central on a 3rd and long. The Patriots were within 19-14 when Birchfield hit Kelvis Dula from 6 yards. It was at this point when more than anything else, the game was decided by some old fashion blocking and tackling.
The Cougars would feed fullback Devon Weiss time after time in the fourth quarter and time after time the Senior frustrated the Patriots running through holes and making big gains by refusing to be stopped. Weiss would score twice in the fourth period on runs of two and four yards and Freedom was tired and frustrated despite making a game of it with a score of their own. But that blocking and tackling and a steady dose of Devon Weiss would spell doom for Freedom.
When Alexander Central stopped the Patriots on their final possession, they simply ran out the clock with Weiss pounding Freedom on the ground and keeping the chains moving. When Gunnar Anderson took a knee the Cougars had exorcised a demon with the win. Freedom had always been a tough team to overcome, they led the all time series between the teams 25-5 and Alexander Central had only two wins in Morganton. Make it three !
AC out gained Freedom on the night 437 to 303 with Weiss posting 181 bruising yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. Gunnar Anderson rushed for 137 yards and two scores. Jordan Brown led the defense with a whopping 14 tackles. Junior defensive lineman Isaac Chapman was a thorn in the side of the Patriot offense all night as he put pressure on the Freedom backfield, his hurries were countless prompting he Freedom broadcaster to state after the game, “That guy is a beast.”
Alexander Central sits alone atop the NWC at 3-0 and 7-0 overall. Freedom drops into a second place tie with Watauga and West Caldwell at 2-1. The Cougars will return to Taylorsville next Friday for Homecoming against McDowell.
If someone asks you how the Cougars won the big game, just tell them, by blocking and tackling !