The Blue Ridge Youth Football League season began last Saturday with an opening cross-county matchup between the West Wilkes Knights and the Central Wilkes Falcons at Wes Steele Stadium.

West Wilkes used some big-play ability and stingy defense to defeat the Falcons 20-0 in the opener. A 57-yard run on fourth down and a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown proved to be the difference for the scoring, while the defense limited Central Wilkes to just over 100 yards for the game.

“Other than putting it on the ground a few times I was really pleased with what we did. It’s nice to have a really good back in Hanchey, but I think we showed that we’re not a lone, one running back team,” stated West Wilkes Head Coach Randy McCoy. “I think keying on one back isn’t going to work against us this year.”

While it ended with a lopsided score in favor of West Wilkes (1-0), things didn’t start off quite like it ended. With the opening drive of the game, the Knights drove the length of the field up to the Falcons’ 20-yard line; however, as quarterback Jett McNeill made his toss to the running back, he was hit in the backfield, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Central Wilkes’ Camdyn Key.

On their next possession the Knights thought they were on the board as Holt Hanchey reversed field and scattered for what appeared to be a 38-yard score, but the play was called back on a block in the back penalty.

Facing a fourth-and-21, West put the ball on the ground once more, recovered its own fumble, but still resulted in a turnover on downs.

After forcing Central Wilkes into a turnover on downs at the 45-yard line, the Knights rode running back Diego Chavez on four straight plays, highlighted by a 25-yard run, until he broke into the end zone from 6 yards out to put them ahead 6-0 just three minutes into the second quarter.

West Wilkes continued its best quarter of the game by adding more points to their total. After forcing the Falcons into a three-and-out, the Knights faced fourth-and-two on the 43-yard line and elected to go for it. McNeill rolled out left and pitched the option to Hanchey who outran two defenders to the sideline, turned the corner and raced to the end zone for a 57-yard score. The 2-point conversion was good as Ethan Day found Chavez in the end zone, giving West a 14-0 lead with just two minutes before the half.

The Falcons moved the ball deep into West territory on the opening drive of the third quarter, picking up three first downs along the way.

Just as they started to gain some momentum,  it quickly shifted back in favor of the Knights. Jayden Joyner took the jet sweep handoff and nearly picked up the first down as he bounced off three tackles, but West Wilkes’ Jakaden Larrimore managed to force a fumble. Hanchey scooped up the ball and ran untouched to the end zone for a 75-yard fumble return touchdown, putting the Knights ahead for good 20-0.

Central Wilkes (0-1) continued to show fight as they responded with their best drive of the game, picking up three first downs up to the 17-yard line. With an opportunity to get on the board, the Falcons were forced into a fourth-and-long. Hunter Wyles dropped back to pass and threw up a prayer to the end zone, but the Knights’ McNeill was in prime position to pickoff the pass to deny Central Wilkes any more points and secure the shutout.

“Just really proud of the defense. For us to be able to shutout Central I think is a huge accomplishment,” said McCoy. “They’re a good team and our kids really stepped up and played a physical football game.”

Both teams will be off this week for Labor Day. West Wilkes resumes play with a home game against East Wilkes on Sept. 7, while Central Wilkes will not return to the field again until Sept. 14 when it hosts Elkin.

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