Owen High junior Jager Gardner was a bit overwhelmed by his rushing totals Friday night.
Join the club.
Gardner carried the ball 32 times for a school-record 450 yards and five touchdowns as the Warhorses won at Avery County, 36-27.
The High Country was a suitable place for Gardner to record Western North Carolina’s best single-game rushing performance in 39 years — the area record (457 yards) belongs to Murphy’s Willie Brown from a 1974 game against Swain County.
As the home team, Avery County (2-3, 0-1) was the official scorer for Friday’s game. But since Owen’s longtime stats crew credited Gardner with 459 yards there is a chance that the Buncombe County school will submit that number to the NCHSAA with online video as a supplement.
Gardner scored on a pair of 80-yard runs, to go along with three more touchdown jaunts from 43, 27 and 6 yards out. Friday’s outburst put Gardner (1,153 yards, 14 touchdowns) over the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season — he had 1,552 yards and 17 touchdowns as an All-Western Highlands Conference back in 2012.
The Warhorses (4-1, 1-0) trailed 27-15 at halftime of Friday’s WHC game in Newland.
“We didn’t start out so well. So I was shocked and speechless really to find out (the yardage),” Gardner said. “I think their defense was expecting more sweeps from us, so we just ran it up the middle.”
Gardner said he believes his previous best rushing output for a game was about 250 yards. Gardner’s offensive line is made up of Quentin Carver, Grant Dickerson, Taylor Earley, Mason Eades and Seth Penley.
Owen coach Kenny Ford said a second-half gamble paid off.
The Warhorses were ahead, 29-27, when Ford decided to go for it on 4th down and 1 from his own 20-yard line. Ford’s risk was successful and kept the possession alive, and Gardner’s final touchdown with 3 minutes, 20 seconds to go sealed the win.
“I never lost confidence in this group,” Ford said.
“(Avery County) did a good job of taking some things away from us. (Offensive coordinator Anthony Lee) did a good job of taking what they gave us, and the kids up front opened up holes for Jager all night.”