VALDESE — Offensively, Draughn senior quarterback Braxton Cox threw for six touchdowns, including three long strikes to speedster Khe-nai Banks.
Defensively, the Wildcats withstood an onslaught of 93 plays, including 69 passes, forcing four turnovers.
What came out on the other side was a 48-22 home nonconference win over Avery County late Friday that drove the Draughn football team’s winning streak to three for the first time since the start of the 2012 season.
Cox’ half-dozen TDs represented a school-record, bettering his own mark from the week before and pushing him to 15 for the year to break Keith Loomis’ season record (10) from 2011. Cox’ 383 passing yards, accomplished on 15 of 26 with no interceptions, were 12 off of his own record from last fall, but Banks’ 26-yard completion on a gadget play gave the Wildcats another program record with 409 team passing yards, part of a school-record 522-yard offensive output.
“Nothing feels better. Literally, I get back there and I know I’ve got to get the ball out quick. I lay it out there, and (Banks) is there every time,” Cox said. “(The win streak) is what we’ve been working for. Since I’ve been here freshman year, that’s what we’ve been working for and trying to get above .500. It feels great to be there.”
Banks grabbed six receptions for a school-record 212 yards, and his three TD grabs tied a school record set just one week ago. With Draughn up 14-2, Banks earned back-to-back scores from 69 yards out and on a one-play, 80-yard scoring drive — the longest TD grab in school history — and he added a 25-yard zig-zagging touchdown in the fourth period.
“All week long, Coach (Chris) Powell had coached us to execute the way he wants us to,” Banks said. “Overall, this is just a team win. That’s all I can say about it.”
It was a drastic turn from an inauspicious start when the hosts fell behind 2-0 when Cox was sacked in the end zone for a safety on DHS’ first play from scrimmage. The Wildcats took the lead for good later in the opening quarter on 6-yard TD run by Trent Corn (17-88).
“I thought our offensive line did a great job,” Powell said. “(Avery has) two huge D-tackles in there. The defensive ends they had were strong kids. Our line did a good job of establishing the line of scrimmage and giving Trent some lanes. Trent’s legs never stopped moving. … Our running game came up in big situations to be able to move the chains.”
The Wildcats (3-2) went up 14-2 early in the second quarter when Cox tossed his first TD pass to Donavan King from five yards away.
“It felt great,” King said. “That was my first varsity touchdown, and it felt very good to do it with these people.”
Cox’ fourth TD went to Nick Chrisco from 7 yards out in the third quarter, and Denver Treadway (3-127) grabbed Draughn’s final score of the night on a 74-yard Cox strike — the second longest in Wildcats’ history.
Ryan Kaminske’s six successful extra points helped Draughn take its scoring margin to 164-74 over the three-game scoring — and winning — spree.
“We bought in,” Banks said. “Coach has always been telling us we need to buy in, and that’s how we’re going to win. I can honestly say we did that.”
Along with four takeaways for the second week in a row, the Wildcats’ defense registered six fourth-down stops, including three in goal-to-go situations. That helped nullify a Vikings offense that amassed 519 yards on the 93 plays it ran.
Cox and Robbie Gibby had the first two interceptions of Avery QB Troy Hoilman (37 of 69, 365 yards, 3 TDs) this season, and Corn and Omarion Conley had fumble recoveries off forces by King and Treadway.
“It was just our team playing together and covering everybody up,” Gibby said. “A lot of people were working. You’ve just got to play together as a brotherhood. That’s all it takes.”
“It was a team effort,” Conley added. “We’ve just got to keep moving and working hard. This year, we’re looking to change things for Draughn, work hard and keep grinding.”
Zach Poteet led the Wildcats with nine tackles. Chrisco (pass breakup) had eight stops, Treadway (PBU, one for loss) and Corn (TFL, PBU) made seven apiece, King (TFL) and Beckett Nelson (three PBU) tallied six each and Mason Pratt had five stops. Donnell Wilkins (two QB hurries) had an additional stop for loss.
“Our linebackers shut it down,” King said. “I was getting triple-teamed the whole time, but our linebackers held out back there.”
“I give credit to our staff,” Powell said of the defensive effort. “We knew with what we had been doing with one high safety, we couldn’t stop them. We really came up with a great gameplan. We repped it with our kids all week long. The kids bought in to it right away.
“We had to use Braxton Cox (four tackles) on both sides of the football the whole entire game. He played his butt off on both sides of the football. Beckett Nelson made some great plays back there. Our corners knew they would want to take a shot down the field, so our gameplan was to make them throw it short and make them run the football. … Overall, the defense did a phenomenal job.”
Sitting above .500, including a 1-0 mark in league play, Draughn now gets to jump into the meat of its Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference slate with momentum on its side.
That will happen this Friday night in Statesville when the Wildcats take on West Iredell.
Justin Epley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8943.