Heading into the final minutes of their Oct. 25 road game at Mountain Heritage, the Owen Warhorses were on the verge of pulling off a second consecutive Western Highlands Conference upset.
Instead, they left Yancey County with a heart-breaking defeat.
The Warhorses were 4-3 coming into the contest against 6-1 Mountain Heritage, which had not lost a conference game since 2016. Owen, a week off of a home victory against previously undefeated Polk, entered the half knotted in a 0-0 tie with the reigning conference champion Cougars.
Senior Fred Graves boosted Owen's hopes of snapping the Mountain Heritage conference winning streak with an interception in the third quarter. Graves returned the ball to the 2-yard-line of the Cougars before Warhorse junior quarterback Caleb Scott took it in to give his team a 7-0 lead.
The home team responded by driving the ball down the rain-soaked field and opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown run. As the Cougars failed to complete the 2-point conversion, the Warhorses fielded the subsequent kickoff with 7-6 advantage.
Scott, who finished the evening with 7 completions on 12 attempts and 131 yards passing, hit Graves for a long touchdown pass to put Owen up 13-6. Graves finished the game with a 111 yards receiving on 5 catches.
A successful 2-point conversion put the Warhorses ahead, 15-6, with 11:04 left in the game.
The Owen defense, led by senior lineman Saevion Gibbs and his 15 tackles, held the Cougars offense on four straight plays on the ensuing drive, but Mountain Heritage would once again find the end zone to cut the Warhorse lead to 15-14.
The Warhorses set up to receive the kickoff from the Cougars with 3:31 left in the game. Senior Nathaniel Ledford's kick appeared to be heading out of bounds as it touched down just inside the 10-yard-line, but the ball died on the soggy field just inches short of the goal line, where it was recovered by a Mountain Heritage player.
The Cougars scored on the ensuing possession and the 2-point conversion put them up 22-15. A last-minute Owen drive stalled with an interception at the Mountain Heritage goal line.
The loss dropped the Warhorses to 4-4 on the season and 1-2 in the WHC. Owen will head to Avery County, Friday, Nov. 1, to take on the 5-4 Vikings.The Warhorses have won their last two match-ups against Avery.