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WILMINGTON- The Ashley High School football team needed to hit someone else after having to wait for its season opener when its week one contest was canceled. With running back Bradley Plyler leading the way, delivering multiple smash mouth runs throughout the night, the Screaming Eagles grabbed a 40-17 victory against Swansboro on Friday.
“At times we looked like it was our first game and it was sloppy, but we played together and stayed together tonight,” said Ashley Coach Jeff Turner. “We kept a good attitude and had a will to win. We made some good plays and happy with a lot of things.”
Plyler accounted for three total touchdowns, with 15 carries and over 100 yards rushing. Joe Barbera finished with three sacks and Grant Grenyion recovered a fumble to stop Swansboro on the opening drive of the game to pace the defensive unit.
The Pirates used a big pass play during their first possession to move deep into Ashley territory, but a turnover on fourth down gave the early momentum to the Screaming Eagles and the home team took advantage of the miscue.
Jacob Reed hit Corey Whaley along the sideline on a 46-yard pass play to spark the ensuing drive. A 14-yard reverse to Sean Ross capped the effort to put Ashley in front 6-0 at the midway point of the first quarter.
The Screaming Eagles scored points on four of five possessions in the first half, including a 10-yard run by Plyler to make it 14-0 late in the opening frame. Plyler also caught a 59-yard touchdown from Reed, while Freddie Thames punched in a five-yard score early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Zack Williams finished the effort with a 40-yard trip to the end zone with under two minutes to remaining in the ball game.
“We were very smart with what we were doing on offense,” Turner added. “We hung in there, reading the defense and knowing where the opening gaps were. There are a lot of things we have to do as coaches to correct some of the first game mistakes. We still have a lot of improving to do, but I believe with our kids and their attitude we can get there.”
Ashley used a healthy dose of Reed, Plyler and Thames on the ground. Whaley also had two touches for 41 yards. Thames closed his night with 13 rushes for 96 yards. Connor Lewis keyed the special team’s coverage game for the Screaming Eagles, while Alex Brooks and Shane Dickerson helped the Ashley defense, which allowed just three points.
Highlighting Swansboro’s effort was Bryce Wilson. The senior linebacker had a 40 -interception return for a touchdown to keep it a two possession game (22-10) in the second quarter and added one sack. Nicholas Lee also took a 70-plus kickoff return just before the final horn.
With the win, Ashley avenged last year’s 28-14 setback to the Pirates and improved to 1-0 overall. The Screaming Eagles host Fairmont at home in week three on Friday, September 2.
Ashley- Sean Ross, 14-yard run, 5:59
Ashley- Bradley Plyler, 10-yard run, (2-point conversion), 1:24
Swansboro- Cole Gleason, 22-yard field goal, 9:36
Ashley- Jacob Reed 59-yard pass to Bradley Plyler, 8:21
Swansboro- Bryce Wilson, 40-yard interception return (PAT, Gleason) 4:23
Ashley- Bradley Plyler, 2-yard run
Ashley- Freddie Thames, 4-yard run, 10:26
Ashley- Zack Williams, 46-yard run, 1:50
Swansboro- Nicholas Lee, 75-yard kick return, :33