By Pete Zamplas
West Henderson Falcons, off to their best varsity football start in 35 years, finally entered the loss column Friday after a spirited comeback fell short against Tuscola.
Tuscola held on for a 24-21 win, kicking a field goal and holding West scoreless in overtime. The visitors from Haywood County might have felt at home, driving along Haywood Road (N.C. 191) to West.
Both Haywood teams won by a field goal in Henderson County Friday. Coach Brett Chappell’s Pisgah Bears stormed back to nip Hendersonville (4-5; 1-2 Mtn. 6) by 30-27, with a last-second kick. HHS can no longer win the Mountain Six title, but likely makes playoffs even if losing to Brevard (8-1; 3-0 M6) at home this Friday. This is since most M6 teams usually make it in.
North Henderson (0-9) lost 44-14 at T.C. Roberson (4-5; 4-2). Both Knights scores were on passes — from Brian Payne to Zach McDaniel, then from Zach’s brother Zaire McDaniel to Zidyan Pheoun. North scored one more point (in a 42-22 loss Sept. 20) than West did, when they each lost at home to Tuscola.
East Henderson (1-8; 0-3 M6) lost 27-0 Friday at Franklin, for FHS’ first win.
West (8-1; 5-1 WMAC) remains in great position to finish in the top three in the elite Western Mountain Athletic Conference. This would be a major accomplishment.
The Falcons can seize first place if they slay Goliath — playing at A.C. Reynolds (7-2; 6-0) this Friday as a decoded underdog. West concludes the regular season at home against Asheville (3-6; 2-4), a talented spoiler. West nearly upset Reynolds at home a year ago, falling 21-14. The seven-point margin was smallest of ACR’s WMAC wins in 2018. ACR is apt to try to pour it on this time. The showdown at 7 p.m. is televised on My40.
Tuscola mirrors Roberson’s marks of 4-5 overall and 4-2 in the WMAC. They play Friday, in Waynesville. If Coach J.T. Postell’s Mountaineers prevail and win at Erwin (3-6; 3-3), they finishes second — as long as West loses again — by owning the head-to-head tiebreaker over West. West has beaten TCR, and thus pulls for the Rams over Tuscola. If Tuscola loses once and West beats AHS, then West remains ahead of THS to win second place and a home playoff. Tuscola lost to North Buncombe (7-3; 4-3) by two, and was drilled 51-0 by Reynolds. ACR demolished N.B. 54-6 Friday.
Tuscola quarterback Nick Rich accelerated quickly against West — once after he grabbed a bouncing bad snap. Rich threw to athletic Coleman Bryson for a TD. Another Coleman — Cothern — reeled off a crucial 61-yard run. THS led 14-0 at halftime, then 21-0 after Gavin Tannerhill’s 80-yard jaunt and the PAT.
But Coach Paul Whitaker’s Falcon rushing machine churned out three TDs in a row to tie the game. Peyton Dimsdale bulled in from a yard out. Next, Falcon Alex Baynard pounced on a fumbled THS snap. That set up Austin Jenkins’ TD, as he swept right then cut into the end zone.
Then in the fourth quarter, Auden Brennan scampered in on a keeper. Jackson Chandler’s extra point tied it, at 21.
But in OT, Tuscola booted a field goal and stopped West to thwart the comeback.
West’s 8-0 mark was its best start since going 12-0 in 1984, before falling in round three of playoffs, West historian Drew Brannon said.
Meanwhile, Hendersonville scored first on Jay Gaines’ 13-yard burst. Jim Sosebee’s HHS led Pisgah 17-3 after Richmond Felton’s TD run midway into the third quarter.
Then Pisgah (6-2; 2-1 M6) outscored HHS 24-7 the rest of the way. The Bears blocked a punt, and took the ball in for a TD.
Felton was the workhorse and punched in HHS’ final score in a second effort, on fourth down and a foot to go. But Pisgah steadily drove, and Wilson Moody’s 27-yard field goal on the last play won it 27-24.
Felton was homecoming king when HHS thrashed Franklin 57-12 Oct. 11. HHS then lost 31-6 at Smoky Mountain (SMHS). Brevard snatched first by beating SMHS (6-3; 2-1) by 24-6 Friday, but has to play at HHS then Pisgah which hopes for a three-way tie.
In volleyball, West Lady Falcons (26-6) tied Roberson at 14-2 atop the WMAC to repeat as champs. Tiffany Lowrance’s crew beat third-place ACR 3-1 then TCR 3-0 to win the conference tourney, then swept North Buncombe Saturday to open 3A playoffs.
Coach Sue Moon’s North Lady Knights (16-10) dropped their 3A opener 3-2 to Jay M. Robinson, but wee fourth in the WMAC at 10-6. In 2A playoffs Saturday, East (10-17; 4-6 M6), coached by Sabrina Cairnes, fell at Patton and Hailey Cook’s Lady Cats (8-13; 4-6 M6) were edged 3-2 at Lake Norman Charter. BHS (23-5; 10-0) is M6 champ.
In soccer, HHS (11-7-1; 6-2) is second and East (3-6-1; 5-3) fourth in M6 action and might both make playoffs. Stuart Scott’s Bearcats won at Coach Emily Hartford’s Eagles, 3-1 on Oct. 14. They met again Oct. 30 at HHS, to close the regular season. Brian Brewer’s Falcons (8-11-1; 4-10) edged Ricardo Hernandez’s Knights (5-13; 3-11) 1-0 on Oct. 21. Roberson (17-1; 14-0 WMAC) won 5-0 at NHHS on Oct. 23.