GENTRY – The Pioneers scored 30 unanswered points last Friday to beat Huntsville 38-15 in nonconference football action.
Gentry (1-1) blew open an 8-7 game to lead 22-7 at the half and 30-7 after three quarters. The lead was 38-7 before Huntsville would score again.
Senior quarterback Brandon Atwood connected on 15-of-27 pass attempts for 199 yards and three touchdowns for Gentry. He also ran for 147 yards and a pair of scores.
Huntsville’s Brooks Wiggins was 16-of-26 passing for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Slayter Watkins rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries and caught 4 passes for 29 yards.
A total of 11 Eagles caught passes in Friday’s game.
Colby Shepherd led the Eagles on defense with a fumble recovery and 11 tackles, while Isiah Kitts intercepted a pass.
With 5:39 left in the opening quarter, Atwood scored on a 2-yard run. Zach Jarnigan ran for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
The Eagles with 1:59 left in the first got on the board when Watkins scored from 4 yards out. The drive featured a 30-yard penalty for two personal fouls against the Pioneers.
Oscar Martinez kicked the extra point and the first quarter ended 8-7.
Atwood with 9:23 left in the second hit Beau Tomblin on a 13-yard touchdown pass. Atwood’s run made it 16-7.
The ensuing kickoff hit an Eagle player and bounced away, with Gentry recovering the fumble.
Atwood made Huntsville pay for the mistake, hitting Jarnigan on a 49-yard screen pass for the score. The two-point conversion failed, but Gentry led 22-7 at the half.
At one point in the first half, Huntsville intercepted a Gentry pass, but returned the favor on the next play.
Coach Matt Williams said those two mistakes cost the Eagles.
“We were playing catch-up. Some bad things happened to us with the kickoff that bounced off of us and gave them the ball back,” he said after the game.
“The fluke interception that was tipped. The route was wide open. The guy got a hand on it and tipped it into their guy’s hands.”
The Pioneers opened the third quarter with a methodical drive that took nearly 9 minutes off the clock. It ended when Atwood scored on a 4-yard run, then found Jarnigan for the two-point conversion.
Atwood with 10:11 left in the game connected with Garrison Jackson on a 14-yard TD pass. Atwood’s two-point run put Gentry ahead 38-7.
The Eagles got on the board again with 5:03 left in the game when Wiggins hit Justin Reynolds on a 23-yard pass. Wiggins found Layton Bennett for the two-point conversion pass, cutting the deficit to 38-15.
“We’re just going to have to take it and learn from it,” Williams said.
“That’s a great bunch of guys, a great locker room. I still love those guys and I know they’re going to come back Monday ready to work. We’ve just got to put this one behind us. We’ve got to learn from it.”
Huntsville beat Gentry a year ago 35-6, but Williams said this year’s Pioneers team is much better.
“Gentry’s a good team. They’re a much-improved team. They’ve got some great skill guys. The quarterback is very good and they’ve got a couple of good receivers,” he said.
Still, Williams said he saw some positive moments last Friday.
“I think for the most part we got back there. We just needed to get him wrapped up,” he said of Atwood.
“He got loose a couple of times. That’s what good quarterbacks make you do, they make you pay for it.”
Shepherd recorded a pair of tackles for losses, while Alejandro Gamez and Gabe Dasen had one each.
Williams said Wiggins played well in his first varsity start.
“Brooks did a good job. We’ve got a lot of inexperience, especially receivers right now,” Williams said.
“I believe in Brooks 1,000 percent. He’s going to do nothing but get better all year long. We’ve got to catch the ball, we’ve got to run the right routes.”
Williams said several players on this year’s team haven’t played since junior high.
“We have a lot of guys playing that haven’t played in a couple of years and it’s just getting that game experience under the belts,” he said.
Williams also had high praise for Shepherd, a senior, and Watkins, a junior, for their play on defense.
“I told Colby and Slayter Watkins both, they’re warriors. They played their butts off.
“I was really proud of him (Shepherd) how hard he played. He was all over the place.”
On Friday, The Eagles will host Berryville (1-0) in nonconference play. The Bobcats ran through West Fork last Friday 41-0, rushing for 285 yards.
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Huntsville opened the 2019 junior football season last Thursday with a sweep of Gentry.
The junior high team (grades 8 and 9) won 8-0 over the Pioneers, while the seventh-grade team won 40-8.
Both junior teams will play at Berryville on Thursday of this week.