By Pete Zamplas
West Henderson is on the verge of finishing as the elite Western Mountain Athletic Conference’s runner-up overall and top 3A team, thereby all but ensuring the Falcons will host their playoff opener.
But first, West must take care of business at home this Friday. A talented and dangerous Asheville Cougar squad comes to Mills River, with playoff qualifying aspirations of its own. AHS is 3-4 in the WMAC, in a logjam in standings.
West’s situation is clear. The Falcons control their destiny. Win, and they are definitely second overall behind only 3AA Reynolds which clinched first by beating West 56-14 at home last Friday. West is the smaller 3A division for playoffs, and thus avoids Reynolds.
Reynolds and West Henderson are each 8-2 overall, which by far is best among WMAC teams. In WMAC play, West is 5-2.
Roberson (5-2) shut out Tuscola (4-3) by 31-0 on the road Friday. That upset helps West, which lost to Tuscola (4-3) in overtime two weeks ago. West stayed a game ahead of THS, since both lost last Friday. West gets second even if it loses, if both Tuscola loses at Erwin and TCR as expected falls to Reynolds.
Roberson tied West at 5-2 for second overall. Yet West wins any tie with 3AA TCR in overall standings, after beating the Rams 49-31 on Sept. 27. West gets the nod over Erwin and TCR if they all finish 5-3, since West defeated those other two teams.
In contrast, Tuscola would win a 5-3 tie with West to place second — if it wins at Erwin Friday, and West loses to Asheville.
The Falcons scored the most points of any WMAC team so far against Reynolds this year. They came closest to the champs in the score last year, getting nipped 21-14 at home. This year, ACR Rockets blasted Tuscola 51-0, and beat West by 42 — not as badly.
The Falcons scored both of their touchdowns against ACR on Auden Brennan’s fourth-down passes to Austin Jenkins to the left side. The first Auden-to-Austin strike was for a 17-yard score. Jenkins caught the ball at the ACR five, and he out-raced the Rocket DB to the corner of the end zone. That was on fourth-and-12, late in the first half to spoil the shutout. It came after ACR called a time out to set its defense, after seeing West’s formation for the fourth-down play. Clearly, ACR was determined to preserve the shutout. Once the shutout was derailed, Falcon fans erupted with joy.
Then in the third quarter, West matched an ACR score. Brennan threw over the defender to Jenkins, who leaped for the catch in the front left edge of the end zone as he was twirling around. Jenkins trailed on the play coming out of the backfield, after the wide receiver pulled a cornerback away from that left side. West did other trickery, such as resetting linemen’s formation a few times in the second half.
This game was televised on ABC area affiliate MY40. Color commentator Kenny Ford, retired Owen head coach, praised West for “fighting back, and not quitting.”
The other three Henderson County varsity football teams also lost last Friday. Hendersonville (4-6; 1-3 M6) kept it close, falling 20-14 at home to Mountain Six leader Brevard (4-0 M6). Most teams in the 2A M6 usually make playoffs, so odds favor HHS.
The Bearcats wrap up the regular season by hosting East Henderson Friday. The Eagles were shut out for the third time in four games — this time by Smoky Mountain, by 42-0. East’s sole win so far was a comeback victory in week two, at North Henderson.
North’s big chance to notch its sole triumph is tomorrow/Friday, at Enka. Both teams are winless in the WMAC. Games start at 7:30 p.m.