Warriors fend off East Hardy Cougars

THE POCAHONTAS COUNTY High School Warriors went up against the East Hardy Cougars in the first home game of the season on Warrior Field Friday night. The game ended with a Warrior 16 -13 victory. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Broce-Kelley

Aaron Pugh
Contributing Writer

Following a  loss in week three to the Pendleton County Wildcats, the Warriors regrouped and rallied to face down the East Hardy Cougars in their home opener.

Winning against a 0-3 team may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but defeating the Cougars is more than it might appear to be at first.

The Cougars have been in the A state championship two out of the past three years, and made it to the semi-finals in the third year. A proud program, they have had a hard time matching those storied seasons with a new head coach, and, much like the Warriors, they’re working with a young team after graduating an excellent group of athletes. They came into week four seeking their first win of the season, having lost to AA powerhouse Frankfort and two private Catholic schools: number one ranked in A Wheeling Central and Bishop Carroll, Pennsylvania.

The week was a tense one, with fears of storms and flooding throughout the state due to the looming presence of Hurricane Florence.

The Warriors started out the night receiving the kick-off and immediately took advantage by executing an 11-play drive starting at the Warrior 39 yard line and concluding with junior quarterback Dillon Shinaberry both driving in the final run for a touchdown and topping it with a point after kick.

The Cougars answered in the second quarter putting together an effective drive of their own. Finishing it with a rushing touchdown from their quarterback Aden Funkhouser and a blocked point-after attempt, the score 7-6.

The Warriors again put a drive together and had it stall out with a dropped shovel pass on fourth-and-goal and a turnover on downs. The Warrior defense rallied though. Shinaberry, Dustin Fitzgerald, Jacob Jones and Jesse Bostic collapsed the left side of the Cougar offense and drug down the ball carrier Chance Dove in the end-zone three plays later for a safety, score 9-6.

The next score came with a short rushing touchdown by Funkhouser early in the fourth quarter, a play set up by a 55-yard screen late in the third quarter. The Cougars were able to convert the point after, despite the Warriors tipping it in the process. A play that resulted in the injury of junior defensive end and offensive guard Reese Kelly, leaving the Warriors short one of its strongest players and down 9-13 early in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors however would not go quietly into the night. In the next offensive series Shinaberry was able to connect on a 39-yard pass to senior wide-out Kody Kiner, threading the needle into double coverage to prove that Pocahontas  wasn’t done yet.

Shinaberry was able to reinforce that resolve with a 29-yard scramble on a broken play, taking the ball to the five yard line. The Cougars stiffened and held the Warriors out of the end-zone for three plays. Then on fourth and goal from the nine yard line the Warriors ran a reverse to Kiner who sprinted for the right pylon and a touchdown, capped off by a point after by Shinaberry.

The Warrior defense, now short their strong side defensive end Kelley was still able to hold off the final attempts by the Cougars. Getting the ball back, the Warrior offense was able to drive down the field, burning time late in the fourth quarter, allowing Shinaberry to finally kneel the ball and run out the clock, claiming a Warrior victory, 16-13.

On the night, the Warriors rushed for a total 216 yards, led by Shinaberry with 21 attempts for 105 yards and a touchdown; complementing him were senior Jacob Jones with 12 carries for 61 yards, sophomore Keaton Baldwin, with 13 carries for 41 and Kiner with one carry for 9 yards and a touchdown.

Shinaberry and Kiner were able to connect for three completed passes that totaled 86 yards out of the 10 passing attempts. The Warrior defense held East Hardy to 58 yards rushing, but gave up 87 yards on six completions in the air. They were able to force a safety and one interception on the night.

With 90 yards in penalties, and a turnover, the Warriors still have a lot of room for improvement. However they were able to overcome penalties and injuries to claim a victory at home and the rare accolade of having beaten both Hardy County schools in one season.

They next travel to Richwood to face their high flying, longtime rivals, the Lumberjacks, and fight to try and win back the axe. The game is scheduled for Friday, September 21.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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