The Pocahontas County High School Warriors came to the final game of its 3 – 6 season Friday night at Hico where they faced off against the #8 ranked Midland Trail Patriots. The Warriors carried a tough schedule this year, endured some close losses, injuries and heart-ache.
Traveling two and a half hours Friday with a game time temperature of 20 degrees, the Warriors could have hung their heads and called it a season.
That’s not what happened.
Pride is a term that is often attached to the Warriors of PCHS, and November 8, they showed why that is so when they went up against the Patriots and against the cold, with nothing to lose and nothing to gain but pride. The class of 2020 and their teammates went out and played a stunner of a football game for pride and for each other, not only upsetting, but demolishing the Midland Trail Patriots 49-13.
The Warriors came out of the gate with all cylinders firing, and the seniors leading the charge. The Patriots deferred the kickoff and kicked the ball out of bounds to set up the Warriors on their 35.
Senior Wide Receiver #83 Brody Buzzard opened up the Warrior salvo with a two-yard run on a jet sweep. On the next play, senior QB #6 Dillon Shinaberry began his reign of terror on Midland Trail, connecting with sophomore Wide Receiver #5 Cage Burdette in stride for a 48-yard reception. With the Patriots on their heels, Shinaberry kept the throttle down and punched a hole right up the middle of the Patriots’ defense for a 15-yard touchdown; point by junior Kicker #14 Jacob Davis was good.
Score, 65 seconds into the game, 7-0, Warriors
Davis would kick off, and Matt Buzzard’s defense would force the Patriots to a 3 and out. Wide Receiver #88 Dalton Hendrick would field the punt, and drive forward to near midfield giving Doug Burns’ offense and Shinaberry prime starting position. Six plays later, Shinaberry would pull nearly the same stunt, this time for 17 yards, right through the heart of the Patriot defense; Davis point after was good.
Score 14-0 Warriors
Three plays into the next Patriot offensive series junior Nose Guard #32 Jacob Davis and junior DE #66 Jesse Bostic clobbered the running back behind the line of scrimmage and forced him to cough up the ball, which senior DE #63 Dustin Fitzgerald gobbled it up, providing Shinaberry and company with prime starting position near the Patriot 26-yard line.
They would start out with a little speed this time, pitching the ball to junior RB #9 Haiden Gladwell who raced around the left side for 14 yards. The next play, Shinaberry got his hat trick, this time gauging the Midland Trail defense for 12 yards; Davis kick good.
Score, with 5:15 left in the first quarter, 21-0
On the next possession, the Patriots finally got a drive together, and ventured deep into Warrior territory, but the trifecta of freshman DT #71 Austin Morgan, junior LB #10 Keaton Baldwin and Shinaberry, now at LB, pin-balled the Patriot running back and caused another fumble that Brody Buzzard would pounce on, stalling the best drive the Patriots had all night.
At the end of the second quarter, Shinaberry put the cherry on top of a tremendous first half, capping a drive with a 10-yard touchdown with 2:50 left in the half; point after by Davis was good.
Score at halftime, 28-0, Warriors.
At the end of the third quarter, the Warriors would yet again find success. This time, a Warrior punt was muffed by the Patriots and Dalton Hendrick would nab it, setting up a short field for the Warriors who wasted the opportunity. Shinaberry would drive to the Patriot one-yard line, and lose control, but Burdette would jump on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown; kick after by Davis is good.
Score 35-0 Warriors
The second half would see the Warriors complete the mission. The Patriots, however, had a glimmer of hope when a bad pitch on an option by the Warriors put the ball on the ground. which #12 Aaron Sisler would pick up and run into the end zone; point after by #11 Talon Shockey was good.
Score 35-7, Warriors
The Warriors were not finished on the night, with 7:36 left in the fourth, Gladwell would find the end zone on a 10-yard run; point after by Davis was good.
Score 42-7 Warriors
The end of the Class of 2020’s run would come much as you would expect, with Shinaberry driving through a defense for a nine-yard touchdown; point after by Davis good.
The Warrior Junior Varsity would go in on defense following the kickoff to face off with what suspiciously looked like the Patriot Varsity, three plays later #4 Liam Gill would find the end zone from 25 yards out, but the young Warrior defense would take umbridge and deny them the point after.
Pocahontas County may not have made the playoffs, but they played with pride and passion. They played like Warriors.
Final score, 49-13, Warriors.
The night saw Pocahontas County rack up 377 yards of total offense (79 passing and 298 rushing) and hold the Patriots to 149. Leading on the ground game was Shinaberry with 23 attempts for 162 yards and five touchdowns; Gladwell with nine for 91 yards and a touchdown; Baldwin with eight for 37 yards; Burdette with one for 18, and a touchdown; freshman #8 Braedan Hayhurts with one for 13; sophomore #1 Cash Keating with one for two yards.
The air game was owned by the Warriors as they had 79 yards in the finger numbing cold and held the Patriots to 0 yards. Shinaberry was six of nine for the 79 yards. Receiving was led by Burdette with four for 75; Buzzard with one for three and Baldwin with one for one.
The Warrior defense, already touted for hamstringing the playoff bound Patriots, deserves some further recognition. Namely causing and recovering three fumbles and having sophomore DB #4 Frankie Burgess snag two interceptions on the night.
The season has been one of heartache and headache, but this was a night for the seniors, a night that the Warriors played with a will of iron and fire in their eyes and took down a top ranked team like an avalanche. A testament to Warrior Pride.
Graduating from the Warriors will be:
#6 Dillon Shinaberry-QB/LB/DE. A three-year starter, and dominant presence, both offensively and defensively. He finished with 792 rushing yards and 14 TDs this season. In the air, he was 51 of 100 for 630 yards, one touchdown and six interceptions. The strength of the team, a hardy and indomitable player whose head first leadership was present whether the Warriors were up or not.
#11 Devyn Young is a two-year player. Young had to sit out the season with a back injury, nevertheless, he was an encouragement to coaches and players alike. Willing to help at all times, to bolster his teammates and coach up the younger players. One of the staunchest hearts on the team.
#51 Reese Kelley-DE/G/C. If Shinaberry was the strength among the skill position players, Kelley was the lineman side of that same coin. A fellow three-year starter, the strong heart of the team, an anchor on the offensive and defensive line in his time at PCHS. This season was cut short for Kelley, who suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season on the field after game three. But on the sideline, the practice field, huddle and in the minds of his teammates, he never left, an admirable young man who was a pleasure to coach.
#63 Dustin Fitzgerald-DE/DT/OT. The third amigo alongside Shinaberry and Kelley, Fitzgerald was a constant on an offensive line plagued by injuries, holding down the blindside and watching Shinaberry’s back at Left Tackle and flying around on defense either at D-End or down in the trenches, a baller among the big-men.
#75 Isaac “Isack” Evans-DT/OT. In his third year playing for the Warriors, Evans stepped up and became the big-man at Right Tackle – the drive man on the line. While his contributions on the field are fairly recent, the big heart of this big man is something that has been felt the whole time Evans has been padding up with the Warriors.
#83 Brody Buzzard-LB/DB/WR. Rushing 10 for 23 yards and a touchdown; and receiving 11 for 85 yards on the 2019 season. An opposing coach referred to Buzzard as the “spark-plug” of the Warrior defense, a very apt description. Like father, like grandfather, Brody is fully committed and all-in Warrior. A dynamic and dauntless player, he anchored the defense at outside LB and was a speedster on offense. But more than anything, his charisma was infectious and without doubt.
#88 Dalton Hendrick-C/WR. Receiving Hendrick was 11 for 181, as the roll out passer he was two for three for 60 yards and a touchdown. Being 6’6” already makes a player stand out, but it was the consistent nature and diligent work ethic of this senior that will be missed most. Hendrick is quiet, determined, long-suffering and ready to lay it all on the line. If Buzzard was a study in charisma, Hendrick is a study in character.
As with the football seasons, they end sooner or later, with farewells to brothers, tears shed at the thought of never playing with that group again and aspirations for next year.
This was not the perfect season we all wanted, but it was one that the Warriors can hold their heads high about. Facing a rigorous schedule and deciding they would not give up, they would not go quietly into the night.
They play for each other.
They play for pride.