Cougars Can’t Hold On to Lead in WHC Loss
by David Grindstaff
The Mountain Heritage Cougars already saw this scenario play out didn’t they?
Yet there they were Friday night at E.L. Briggs Stadium watching it all unfold against them for the second straight week.
Last week at home against Polk County, the Cougars watched the Wolverines overcome a 14 point deficit to win the Western Highlands Conference contest going away.
Friday night, it was déjà vu for Heritage fans. The only differences were, opponent, running back, yardage, time and final score - it was in Owen not Polk County, Owen’s Jager Gardner was the game hero, and the eventual game-winning run came from the 44 with just over five minutes left to play.
Owen (6-1, 3-0) trailed Heritage (4-4, 1-2) 35-21 after the Cougars capped a beautiful 12 play 66 yard drive with a seven yard TD pass from Avery Austin to Dalton Robinson at the 6:42 mark of the 4th quarter.
The Warhorses then climbed on the back of junior running back Jager Gardner, who finished off the game with an explosive 4th quarter to rush for 313 yards and five touchdowns.
Owen began its comeback with a 4 play 54 yard drive that ended with a Gardner one yard TD plunge.
The team from Buncombe County grabbed its first lead of the game following a 99 yard drive that began with 8:43 left to play and ended with a 44 yard Gardner TD jaunt and two point conversion pass that put the Warhorses in front 36-35.
Following the Warhorse score the Cougar offense went to work and, mixing the run with the pass, moved to the Owen 34 yard line before the door was slammed shut when the Horses intercepted a Trevor Robinson pass on 4th down and 6 with 1:30 left on the game clock.
Gardner then put the icing on the Warhorse victory cake when he broke loose for a 68 yard touchdown run with 22 seconds left to put Owen in front 43-35.
Owen scored the game’s first touchdown, reaching paydirt on the first drive of the game to put the Cougars in the hole early.
But Heritage didn’t panic and tied the score at 7-7 with a methodical 10 play 70 yard drive to open the game. Dalton Robinson, who rushed for 103 yards on 23 tries, finished off the drive with a one yard run and Tristan McCarty added the PAT to even the score.
Owen regained the lead quickly 14-7 when Gardner got loose and broke for away from the Cougar-D for a 53 yard TD run in the first quarter.
But Heritage owned the second quarter, outscoring the visitors 21-7 to build a seemingly comfortable 14 point lead at the break.
Heritage tied the score at 14-14 early in the second when Dalton Robinson bulled his way into the end zone from two yards out and after falling behind 21-14 following a five yard Gardner TD run, the Cougars remained in contention with a 70 yard drive that culminated with a 4 yard Trevor Robinson touchdown run.
A defensive gem, in the form of an interception by linebacker Colby Presnell, allowed the Cougars to take their first lead of the game. Trevor Robinson hooked up with Jake McClellan, who caught five balls for 57 yards, on a middle screen at the Owen 13 and the senior wide receiver turned the catch into a touchdown as time expired in the first half. Heritage led 28-21 at the intermission.
Trevor Robinson finished with 77 yards rushing and 76 yards passing after completing 7 of his 15 pass attempts against the aggressive Warhorse defense.
This week the Cougars take a much deserved rest with an open date on their schedule. Heritage will resume WHC play on October 25 when they host the rival Mitchell Mountaineers.