First win of season causing sighs of relief

Fred McCormick Sports columnist

The Black Mountain News has been covering football at Owen since the first day that the high school assembled a team.

Reading through old copies of the paper is a constant reminder of just how important the team has been to the surrounding community.

The love for the Warhorse football program in the Swannanoa Valley bridges every conceivable divide you can imagine for former players, current players, parents and countless other local residents.

That community support for Owen football is quite possibly why the Warhorses may have heard a collective sigh of relief as they rode the bus back from Avery County last Friday after securing head coach Nathan Padgett’s first career victory.

Padgett is the first coach in three decades not named Kenny Ford to lead his alma mater to a win.

The 49-6 outburst against the Vikings is Owen’s first victory in five game. But more importantly, it allows the team to start conference play 1-0.

Sidney Gibbs continued to be unstoppable.

The shifty running back gained 288 yards on 22 carries. As impressive as that 13-yards-per-carry statistic is, his season average of 10 yards every time he touches the ball may be even more so.

Gibbs scored three times for the Warhorses, which is one more than the two touchdowns he averages each game.

Coach Ford has frequently talked about the special player that he inherited during his first year on the sidelines for Owen, quarterback Brad Johnson.

With two more seasons to play after this one — in which Gibbs is only 40 yards shy of 1,000 yards after five games as a sophomore — he gives Padgett a strong foundation to build upon.

The win over Avery also served as the arrival of freshman Kendrick Weaver, who introduced himself by returning the opening kick for 80 yards.

Players and coaches likely savored the win on Saturday; but their focus quickly shifted to this week’s game against Mitchell.

The Mountaineers took last Friday off after acting as a buzzsaw during the first five games of the year to open the season 5-0.

Mitchell has averaged 52.2 points-per-game while holding opponents to an average of just over 10.

The match-up will allow the young Owen team to see where they stand against the best team in the Western Highlands Conference at this point in the season.

The Warhorses will no doubt focus on stopping a balanced running attack employed by Mitchell as they host the Mountaineers at home at 7:30 p.m.

The Owen defense will want to play much more like the one that allowed Avery to score only six points than the unit that showed up to McDowell the week before.

And while it is true that Mitchell is a favorite on paper, the game itself will be played under the lights at Warhorse Stadium with plenty of fans in maroon and white. It will definitely not be a slam dunk for Owen.

Padgett has maintained since he started at Owen that the road ahead would not be an easy one, and he was right.

But with that first win under his belt, one thing has certainly become easier for the young coach, his young team and the valley that loves them this week — breathing.