Cats to Visit ‘Peyton Place’ Friday; West, HHS Roll in Openers

By Pete Zamplas-

West Henderson head coach Paul Whitaker likes a “bell cow” main runner, and the bell rang often for Peyton Dimsdale in the Falcons’ 56-42 season-opening victory over East Rutherford at home Friday.

West’s barn opened for thoroughbred Khaliq Barnes, who kept blazing around fast East Rutherford. Cavs’ star Calvin Jones (3) comes at him. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Dimsdale and colleagues sure answered the bell, and rang the Cavaliers’ bells. He smashed them for 174 yards on 28 carries, averaging six yards per burst. He rumbled in for four touchdowns, including three of West’s first five scores.

“This is Peyton’s time to shine” as lead power back in West’s Wing-T triple option, Coach Whitaker said. “When you have speed back there with (wingbacks) Jenkins, Barnes and Cash, they might forget the guy (fullback) in the middle.”

Bearcat star lineman Ethan Frisch crunches North QB Brayden Corn, just after Corn gets rid of the ball. Behind them is the school’s granite fieldhouse. That and the old gym, built in 1936, are among HHS buildings to soon go down in the campus’ renovation. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

West’s inside-out combo has blazers Khaliq Barnes (125 yards, 12.5 ypc.) and Keyaris “Fast Cash” Cash (86 yards and a 15-yard TD, 8 ypc.) sizzling outside.

West hosts Hendersonville this Friday at 7:30 p.m.. This is a de facto battle for the unofficial Henderson County crown. HHS head coach Jim Sosebee watched West’s game in person, with his home opener rain-delayed to Saturday.

East QB Gavin Gosnell rolls out, in the fog Friday. Eagle blockers include Brody Lindsey (72), Tanner Coggins (22), Ty Warren (68) and Gus Schillig (53). They have the jump on Owen star DL Jaylin Davidson (51). Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Hendersonville beat North Henderson 48-6, cruising after seizing a commanding 42-6 edge at halftime. Woody “End Zone” Hunter passed for nearly 300 yards (at 296) in the first half alone, as he connected on 25 of 33 passes. Hunter ran for a TD, and several two-point conversions. He is eager for the West showdown.

“Our pass protection was good,” Coach Sosebee said. “Woody worked well with our young receivers.” Alex Lemmens broke out with many clutch catches, an interception and hard tackles. The junior also punts. The burly 6-2, 230 tight end displayed good hands and route running, and rugged running. He is critical, as HHS’ sole big target.

Lemmens scored the game’s first passing TD on a 36-yard play, after catching the ball at the ten. He said it felt “great” to do that, and make a leaping one-handed snatch for a two-point conversion just before halftime. In the first half Lemmens caught six passes, while speedy Triston Peterkin snatched seven — one for a 14-yard TD. Their 146 yards was half of Hunter’s passing yardage in the half. The sole second-half score was on Jujuan Givens’ 59-yard “pick six,” for HHS.

North Knight “Z” McDaniel (10) breaks free, for a 70-yard TD sprint. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Coach Jim Beatty’s Knights fought. Gritty LB Tristen Norris left early, with a leg injury. Their spectacular play was when “Z” McDaniel took a screen from Brayden Corn 70 yards to the end zone, down the right side. That tightened the score at 16-6, with 10:21 before halftime. Knight Windell Flowers had a 26-yard run, and good kick and punt returns.

The Knights host local rival East Henderson, on Friday. East fell 42-24 to visiting Owen, after shutting out the Warhorses 10-0 in the opening half. The Eagles literally were in a fog, in much of the second half.

Tight end Alex Lemmens was huge. Here, the snares the first touchdown pass of HHS’ win over North Knights far ahead of Zidyan Phoeun (8). Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Passing was a bright spot and building block, East head coach Justin Heatherly said. East’s Gavin Gosnell threw for 349 yards. He completed 27 of 43 passes — one for a 25-yard score. Mason Greene pulled in 13 receptions, for 151 yards. Garrett Adkinson caught seven passes for 127 yards, and the aerial TD.

Triston Peterkin (5) clutches a pass, ahead of Zidyan Phoeun (8). Photo by Pete Zamplas. 

Ethan Levi ran for two Eagle TDs. Early, MLB Levi pressured big Owen QB Caleb Scott into intentional grounding in his end zone for a two-point safety.

Both HHS and West have a blend of speed and power rushing. The Cats feature swift Jay Gaines and his long gains, with quick Jujuan Givens impressive in second-half relief. Their power back is stocky 5-9, 190-pound Richmond Felton, also Hazhan Collington once he is cleared from an injury. Felton ran in the game’s first TD.

Woody Hunter (2) is about to rifle a completion, for HHS. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

West has its fastest backfield in memory, many say. Whitaker agrees. He knowns the program’s history. He is in his tenth season as head coach, after 17 years as an assistant.

Barnes and “Fast Cash” get to corners in a hurry, as Cody Jackson did a half-decade ago. The barn door opens for senior Barnes. This fastest Falcon can “fly.” Barnes zoomed down the left side 40 yards into the end zone. He later nearly went the distance again, with mobile tank Lawrence Whittington a blocker leading the charge.

Speed is needed against swift HHS. East Rutherford is similarly full of athletes, and won ten games last year. Tray Mauney hit slot back Calvin Jones for several TDs versus West Friday.

Knights and Bearcats hustled Saturday, such as after this loose ball. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

HHS-West this Friday should be another high-scoring shootout. West does not want to get into a 14-0 hole again, as it did Friday before scoring the next three TDs.

West’s running depth has been better than ever in this half-decade. “We’re usually a one (lead back) or two-headed monster,” Coach Whitaker said. “We can be a three-headed monster, rotating them in to keep one fresh for the fourth quarter.”

The guttiest Falcon scoring play was when quick QB Auden Brennan broke five tackles on the right side, on a 40-yard keeper just before halftime for a 28-21 lead. The line opened a hole, and Dimsdale surged six yards untouched to put West up by two scores, early in the third quarter.

On a trick play, back Jenkins tossed a pass to Kyle Gaither for a 25-yard score. Brennan ran for the final TD — his second of the night.

West Henderson usually has a pair of bruising backs. Dimsdale, Austin Jenkins and Trey Gilliland are big runners, along with Jenkins who is also quick. They follow such powerful Falcon runners as Philip Keefe and Jay Young (now an assistant coach) in the early Nineties, The Kevins (Robinson and Thomas) a decade ago; and recently Brendan Goings, Tanner Bullock, Trenton Gasperson, Peyton Frisbee, and Isaac Woods. The latest Peyton — Dimsdale — seems stronger than a Clydesdale.

In 2015, Bullock rushed for over 1,000 yards. More than 200 of that was in a 42-14 win at Hendersonville — West’s latest win over HHS in varsity football. West was 8-5 in ’14, then 9-4 in ’15.

“We pounded them, with the fullback,” Coach Whitaker recalls of the win in ‘15. He hopes to do so again, and balance with speed backs. Though HHS skill players are all short, “they’re big up front. The little guys (usually) only have to cover the pass,” Whitaker said. “We (blockers) have to control their front four, to get our backs into the defense’s second level” where Dimsdale has a size advantage over tacklers.

“We’re not worried about Hendersonville” and its speed, Whitaker said. “We’re worried about West Henderson. We’ve just got to fix some things, and get better.” Coach Sosebee similarly said the Bearcats also need to improve, such as by reducing fumbles.

The Falcon quarterback in ‘15 was Brandon Whitaker, the coach’s son. His elder brother Blake Whitaker was a receiver, earlier. Paul Whitaker, West Class of ’87, was a Falcon QB. Paul’s father Bill Whitaker captained the very first varsity Falcon team in 1962, and scored the first touchdown ever on
Johnson Field.

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