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HHS Swift Contender Again; Knights’ Turn to Rebound

By Pete Zamplas- Dorian Allen wears Hendersonville’s no. 7 that Tykel Landrum recently made legendary, and is the Bearcats’s newest game-breaking receiver to watch starting Friday.

“Z” McDaniel of North Henderson soars to make a Tykel Special catch Friday, in the final scrimmage tune-up for the new season that stars tomorrow/Friday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.


Yet it was North Henderson Knight Zachary “Z” McDaniel who nearly made an acrobatic “Tykel Special” catch, in varsity football squads’ final tuneups last Friday. As if honoring the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, “Z” leaped nearly to the moon.


So it seemed.
The Tykel Special — as nicknamed in The Tribune — is jumping far up to snatch a long pass, while leaning backwards and when facing the pass and getting hit. Landrum, a 2018 HHS grad, periodically made such spectacular plays. Few others have the mid-air balance and focus to do it, or even come close.

Jay Gaines is the new HHS blazer. Here against Christ School Friday, he looks just before cutting upfield. QB Woody Hunter (2) watches, as the block of Logan Lands (59) springs Gaines. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Vying for the Tykel Special Club Friday with a leaping effort was “Z” — against Trojans of Carolina High School and Academy from Greenville, S.C. This was in heat during the first of four scrimmages, each last a half of a game.

Upstate South Carolina teams took two of three border battles, while Polk County beat Travelers Rest in steady rain. Host school East played after HHS in the finale, versus 3A powerhouse Greenville Southside. The games were on Justus Field’s artificial turf, that is in its third season.

West Henderson’s Peyton Dimsdale (15) charges through a whopping Falcon hole, against East Henderson Eagles in Bird Bowl 2018. The teams collide Sept. 6, at East. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Berea had backed out. Stepping in was private magnet prep Christ School of Arden, with star quarterback Navy Shuler. The humongous Greenies outdid small but fast HHS. But the score ended close, at 12-7.

The exhibitions prepare teams for the regular season that opens this Friday, Aug. 23. All four local teams will play in the county. Hendersonville hosts North, East welcomes Owen, while West Henderson takes on fast East Rutherford on Johnson Field. Games start at 7:30 p.m.

East Henderson’s rugged defense comes up big Friday in breaking up a pass play of Greenville (S.C.) Southside Tigers. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Meantime, today’s issue launches The Tribune Paper’s inaugural area football section previewing 19 teams in eight counties.

Local head coaches are Paul Whitaker in his tenth season leading West, Jim Sosebee of HHS, East’s Justin Heatherly. and North’s new head coach Jim Beatty. All four spoke about their teams Thursday, in a local Kiwanis Club luncheon.

Head varsity football coaches of Henderson County’s four public high schools are, L-R: West’s Paul Whitaker, North’s Jim Beatty, Jim Sosebee of HHS, and East’s Justin Heatherly. They are shown last Thursday, after speaking at a Kiwanis Club luncheon. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Bearcats: Woody in ‘TD Story’
Hendersonville again has the best chance for a conference title. HHS plays in the Mountain Six that includes East. North and West are in the elite 3A Western Mountain Athletic Conference. West led Reynolds for three quarters last year, in a magnificent near upset.

Hunter is the sole returning starting QB, among the four local teams. On Friday he heaved a long pass right to Allen, who bobbled it for an incompletion. But Allen got redemption, by snatching two key passes including the Tykel Special to set up his scoring reception. “I had to make up for that miss,” Allen said with a grin, once on HHS sidelines.

Knight Andrew Erickson snatches a loose ball, to return a fumble Friday in an exciting “scoop ‘n score.” Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Coach Sosebee huddled his team after the scrimmage, encouraging them about their effort. “Compete” was his mantra.

The coach said the team’s initial proven strength is a strong running game, behind a veteran offensive line. Richmond Felton is a pivotal cruncher, as a runner and linebacker. Husky Felton was a workhorse Friday. He and Hazhan Collington are the rushing Thunder. Balancing them are the sudden Lightning strikes of Jay Gaines — for long gains. “Jay’s very fast, with great vision and lateral cuts,” Sosebee said.

Dorian Allen is the latest HHS big-play receiver. Here, he cuts against Christ School after a long reception Friday. He wears the no. 7 of recent superstar Tykel Landrum. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Ethan Frisch (270 lb.) and Trevor Musselwhite (280) anchor a veteran line.
It all starts with senior QB Woody Hunter. This crafty Baker Mayfield type has a can-do spirit, and sharp instincts. Woody is an adept “end zone Hunter.” Sosebee said, “Woody commands the offense.”
He crafted a late scoring drive Friday. Hunter sees it as a confidence builder —especially against much “bigger guys” than HHS has. The Greenies are much larger than squads HHS is apt to see in its conference or playoffs. Hunter said, “we’re coming together as a team. We’re working hard.”

Bearcat QB Woody Hunter (2) is a successful end zone hunter against Christ School. He holds up the ball, as he crosses the line. Angel Castillo (61) blocks. Jay Gaines (1), behind Hunter, is a new star runner. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Hunter describes Sosebee as a brilliant tactician, and dry-humored motivator. Sosebee was an amusing storyteller, at the Kiwanis luncheon.
The largely new cast of receivers such as sure-handed Clay Sawtelle and swift Allen, Caleb Green, Triston Peterkin, Fabian Mills and Keyshawn Smith.

The schedule is a friend as HHS hosts Pisgah, Brevard and Franklin.

Knights: Corn Grows
New First Knight Jim Beatty took Roberson to a share of the league overall title in 2007 and ’12. He was NHHS offensive coordinator (OC) in ’18. Now he succeeds Zach Wilkins, who runs the defensive. Andrew Erickson returned a fumble for a TD Friday, in an exciting “scoop ‘n score.”

North’s new OC and play caller is quarterback whisperer Kevin “Bucky” Tarr. He molded star Erwin QBs. North is trying to blend spread short passing with its rushing. “We’ll try to get our athletes the ball,” Beatty said.

Sophomore Brayden Corn is growing into the QB role. Friday’s action indicates he is far ahead on his running than throwing timing and accuracy. Corn is very fast, and cut well against the Trojans. “He’s a scrambler,” said East Coach Heatherly. He coached Corn, at Hendersonville Middle. Beatty said Corn will “propel the team, to get better.” Corn calls it “exciting” to lead varsity.

North has big receivers with powder keg WR-RB Zidyan Pheoun, Brandon Rhodes, and sure-handed Connor Hunt who shined Friday. The X factor is McDaniel. “‘Z’ is a playmaker,” Beatty said. “He’s tall (6-1), rangy, and fast with good hands.”
Punishing Knight runners are Pheoun (193 lb.),Windell Flowers (182), and Damarquis McCluney (195) who was in many plays Friday. “We’ll ride the hot hand,” Beatty said.

The strongest Knight is LB-OL Tristen Norris, among the school’s many star wrestlers. He looks to shift the winning edge from mat to gridiron. North varsity did not win last year, but hopes to bounce back up as West then East Henderson (in ’18) recently did.

Eagles: ‘Freakin’ Tough’
East Henderson skyrocketed to a 5-1 start, scoring at least 40 points in three of their first four contests. The Eagles made the playoffs (in 2AA) for the first time in over a half-decade.

Coach Heatherly with tough love has ramped up intensity and excitement. “The Eagles have a lot of fight in them,” said Pisgah Coach Brett Chappell, who led East to success last decade. “They beat us over there, two years ago. Last year, they played very hard.”

Key players include swift RB-flanker Mason Green, burly RB Jose Hernandez, whirlwind DE Tovaris Jenkins, new QB Gavin Gosnell and WR Brent Burleson.

“Gavin has a strong arm and accuracy,” Heatherly said. He wants better “ball control. The longer a Hendersonville doesn’t have the ball, the better.”
Big Birds include Austin Buckner (290 lb.) and Brody Lindsey and Nathan Johnson who are each 6-3, 280. “We’re freakin’ tough,” Coach Heatherly said. He vowed, “We’ll fight, and be competitive.” Gosnell said, “I love the opportunity to lead this team.”

West: ‘Fast Cash’
Three things are virtual certainties in life — death, taxes, and West running the ball in most of its offensive plays. Coach Whitaker slyly pulled the legs of his rival coaches, in the WMAC press conference. “We’ll throw the ball 75 percent of the time,” he fibbed with a straight face. Actually these Falcons usually do not take to the air often, in their Wing-T triple option.

Keyaris Cash is swift, yet can handle carrying the load throughout an offensive series. Thus, you might call him “Fast Cash” or “Cash and Carry.” Falcons often take turns as main back series to series. Look for blazing Khaliq Barnes (5-3, 142 sr.) from West Charlotte, quick QB Auden Brennan; and the bullish trio of Peyton Dimsdale, Austin Jenkins and Trey Gilliland to extend West’s tradition of five yards a vigorous that deals tacklers a ton of pain.

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