By Pete Zamplas
Hendersonville Bearcats scored twice in the final quarter to pull out a 47-40 road victory over Asheville Cougars Friday, in what The Tribune calls The Cat-scratch Classic.
In the Bird Bowl also Friday, West Henderson Falcons soared with four opening-quarter touchdowns to roll 41-10 over East Eagles. This was West’s seventh triumph in a row in the series between the two local high schools that opened in 1960.
Hendersonville (2-1) also exploded for four TDs in a quarter —the second. The Bearcats notched the only two scores in the fourth quarter, to win the exciting shootout televised on My40.
HHS led 34-27 at halftime. A pivotal one-two punch snatch back momentum in the second quarter. First, HHS quickly offset an AHS score as Hazhan Collington returned the kickoff 82 yards for a score. He bounced off of two Cougars at the HHS 30, then eluded another one at the 48. The swift sophomore “runs like a dang bullet,” senior quarterback Woody “End Zone” Hunter said. The PAT tied the game at 20.
Soon after senior Caleb Greene made a “pick six” on an interception, for one of his three scores on the night. HHS led 26-20, after the PAT missed. Greene had scored the first HHS TD on a 14-yard pass play, after catching Hunter’s toss up the middle and HHS led 7-6. After Greene’s pick six, AHS scored and after its extra point led 27-20.
The Bearcats answered. Keyshawn Smith ran 16 yards for an HHS score, on third and three. When lining up for a two-pointer, Dorian Allen was wide left with no Cougar in sight. Hunter tossed it to him a bit too strongly. Allen, on the edge of the end zone, whirled around and leaped to catch the ball. He stuck his feet in bounds for the conversion. That gave HHS a 34-27 lead, with 1:53 to go in the first half.
The see-saw game felt like an “anxiety-filled nail-biter,” Hunter said. AHS scored twice in a row, and led 40-34 entering the final quarter. But HHS seized back the lead. Collington charged 14 yards into the end zone, a half-minute into the fourth. Angel Ramirez’s extra point put HHS in front, at 41-40.
A recovery of Famous Pasley’s fumbled punt set up HHS on the AHS 19. On fourth and one, Richmond Felton bulled ahead for three yards to the nine to set up first and goal to goal.
Greene scored on a pitchout, on a two-yard run. He dashed to his left, and into the end zone. AHS blocked the extra point. Still, HHS led 47-40 with 3:47 remaining.
Linebacker Logan Lands’ interception on third-and-ten sealed victory, with 1:12 left. He grinned afterward how it felt “great” to snatch then clutch the ball, for the turnover.
HHS head coach Jim Sosebee told the Bearcats in their victory huddle they “battled” throughout the night, and did a “hell of a job.” He later said they “stayed locked in, and focused to play.”
The Bearcats have scored at least 47 points in both wins. The first was 48-6, over North Henderson in the opener.
Falcons’ Flying Start
This makes even more impressive West’s containing HHS’ offense in a 16-13 grinder in week two, on Labor Day Weekend. An emotional letdown by the Falcons would be understandable, at East. But instead, the Falcon ground control was in full force.
West head coach Paul Whitaker said his players “stayed focused” from the start, as they close in on a Henderson County championship. The last hurdle is Oct. 18, at North Henderson in a Western Mountain Athletic Conference (WMAC) contest.
West scored four times in the opening quarter Friday. Austin Jenkins returned an interception the distance, for a 26-yard score as West led East 35-0 early in the second quarter. West scored again in the third, for a 41-0 lead.
West has scored over 40 points in two of its three victories. The opener was a wild 56-42 win over East Rutherford.
On Friday, Auden Brennan hit Kyle Gaither on a 39-yard scoring pass play. Other Falcon TDs were on the ground as usual, with one each from four backs who collectively rushed for 315 yards. Peyton Dimsdale ran for 151 yards (8.9 ypc.), Jenkins 66, and Keyaris Cash and Khaliq Barnes totaled nearly 100 more.
East scored the final ten points. QB Gavin Gosnell scooted 14 yards for a TD, in the final minute.
East (1-2) has had a down half in each of its first three games. The Eagles led Owen at the half in the opener, but fell. In week two Coach Justin Heatherly’s crew reversed roles, trailing North Henderson 14-0 at the half but winning in double overtime. Heatherly said the Eagles seemed “shell-shocked” versus West, after a lopsided first half put the game out of reach.
East revived from recent down seasons with a 5-1 start in 2018, losing only to West in that stretch, and made 2AA playoffs.
The Eagles are on the road for the next four weeks. Their pre-conference schedule is substantially stiffer this fall, with stronger teams in (Mitchell on Sept. 27 instead of woeful Madison, Owen in for Rosman) and others much improved. Mitchell opened by winning 24-7 at 3A Erwin.
The Eagles on Friday go to Chase, which they beat 47-21 a year ago. But Chase is 2-0. Polk, which is on deck, is 3-0 and has yielded merely six total points.
The Tribune calls Eagles-Falcons games Bird Bowls. East won three in a row through 2012, Brett Chappell’s last year as its head coach. The Chappell Factor is undeniable, in two area rivalries. In seven seasons since he left East, the Eagles have not yet beaten West. Meanwhile, Chappell has beaten his new school Pisgah’s arch-rival Tuscola all seven times. The latest was 14-0, in Waynesville Friday.
Tuscola is a carry-over prime WMAC rival, from their years in what is now the Mountain Six that includes East and now HHS.
West opens its WMAC season Friday at North Buncombe, which is also 3-0. The victor looms as a season-long contender to make playoffs, even win the WMAC title. West’s other key WMAC contests include at Erwin Oct. 4, and closing at home with Tuscola, Reynolds then Asheville.
Two retired coaches who are radio commentators in Asheville — Asheville Cougar legend Danny Wilkins and Reynolds’ Bobby Poss — told The Tribune both West and N.B. with their rugged running attacks are quite capable of defeating the usual frontrunners in this season.
North Buncombe belted Avery 44-21 Friday. The Black Hawks scored at least 60 in their first two wins — 60-20 over Patton, then 63-0 at their local rival Madison.
North Henderson (0-2) was idle last Friday. Coach Jim Beatty’s Knights are home this Friday, versus Owen. HHS hosts Newton-Conover. East is at Chase. Games start at 7:30 p.m.