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Originally published: 2012-09-12 15:05:28
Last modified: 2012-09-12 15:05:28

Conference Collision

Jamie Shell / (sports@averyjournal.com)

Entering this week's game on a two-game losing skid, the Avery Vikings (2-2) look to get off the canvas following a 47-28 body blow at the hands of McDowell last week with a matchup in Swannanoa against the Owen Warhorses (1-3).
Owen is facing its own adversity, as a low turnout of varsity players and an un-Warhorse-like talent pool of seasons past has provided more losses than victories for the traditional Western Highlands Conference contender.
Owen defeated Avery 56-31 at MacDonald Stadium last season for one of its four conference victories in 2011.
Scouting the Warhorses
Owen suffered one of its worst seasons in recent memory in 2011, dropping each of its non-conference contests before managing four wins in Western Highlands Conference play. The Warhorses showed great heart throughout its season, however, picking up a road win at Avery and a 26-20 upset victory in overtime against Mitchell.
This season's edition of the Warhorses returns six starters both on offense and defense, along with several experienced skill position players, including the senior trio of fullback/linebacker Cole Leighton (308 yards rushing, 49 tackles in 2011), tight end/linebacker Eddy Slye (215 receiving yards with three touchdowns and 76 defensive tackles last season) and tight end/defensive end Adam Lunsford (86 tackles, 10 quarterback hurries in 2011) to anchor the 4-4 defense and Multiple I formation offensive scheme.
Gone from Owen's club from last season are quarterback Carl Patton, linebacker Colton Fox and starting running back Jordan Littlejohn, each of whom factored in the win at Avery last season.
Offensively, the Warhorses are triggered by Tate Gardner (14-for-29 passing for 353 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT), as well as Jager Gardner, who keys the rushing attack with 411 yards on 43 carries and three touchdowns.
Bryan Johnson complements the running game with 221 yards on 36 carries and one score, while Leighton, who returned last week after missing the previous contest with an injured ankle, has run for 192 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown. Teammate Zee Johnston has also chipped in 141 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Lunsford leads the Owen defense with 24 tackles this season, with 21.5 tackles from teammate Tate Gardner. Tyler White has recorded 17.5 tackles, while running for 160 yards and three touchdowns.
Owen is low on numbers, as the club dressed just 24 players at one point this season. The club lost running back/linebacker Cade Fox to an ACL injury and has struggled to keep bodies on the field.
The low down
Despite Owen's low numbers, each team will field 11 players on the field at a time. On paper, the Vikings appear to have a number of advantages, including depth. Following last week's running performance against McDowell, however, the Vikings have to regroup this week to face another run-heavy club in the Warhorses.
Avery connected on a number of big plays last week, including Austin Robbie's 25-yard interception return for a score and the 58-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Tre Jackson to wide receiver Daniel Childress. Each time the Vikings clawed close to the Titans last week, McDowell used its running attack to deliver the answer.
For the Big Red to start its conference season with a win, the team needs to be physical up front and dominate the line of scrimmage. Avery also needs to take care of the football, something that cost the club the last time it journeyed to Swannanoa in 2010 when it almost defeated the Warhorses with a backup quarterback and a scrappy performance.
Owen should look to shorten the game and keep the game primarily on the ground. Don't be surprised if head coach Kenny Ford mixes up things offensively, as he and opposing head coach Darrell Brewer often match wits and provide surprises on the field for one another.
By the numbers
6 - times Avery quarterback Tre Jackson was sacked by the McDowell defense in last week's contest
7 - points scored in each quarter of Avery's 47-28 loss to McDowell last week
79 - all-purpose yards by AHS senior running back Luke Childress in last week's game against the Titans
180 - rush yards by Enka's Chris Carver in last week's win against the Warhorses
249 - rushing yards by Jager Gardner with two touchdowns in last week's loss to Enka
315 - rushing yards given up by the Vikings defense in last week's defeat
Read next week's edition of The AJT for a full recap of this week's contest at Owen, as well as a preview of next week's Homecoming game against Thomas Jefferson Academy.