By Pete Zamplas
Henderson County’s sole unbeaten varsity football team, West Henderson, is back in action this week at home against T.C. Roberson.
That is a relief for local football fans — many of whom saw the other three teams fall last Friday. Hendersonville’s apparent 2A playoff preview soured, in a 30-6 home loss to Mountain Heritage (4-0). This was a rare lopsided win in this fierce series. Cole Shehan wrecked havoc on HHS as a punishing runner, receiver and tackler.
The Bearcats are 1-1 versus Cougar teams in ’19, with their signature win 47-40 at Asheville Cougars Sept. 6. They tangled with wrong Cougars Friday — the ones in green, not red. Heritage is The Green Grim Reaper for HHS, by beating the Bearcats five straight times. Worst is MHHS ousting HHS from 2A playoffs of the past two seasons, in severe chill up in Burnsville.
North Henderson (0-4) lost twice this past week at home. But both scores were fairly close. First was a 13-0 defeat by Owen. That Monday Night Football game was made up from a rainy and lightning-plagued Friday the 13th. Total points in the game unluckily were 13 — and all by the maroon-clad visitors.
“Our defense played its butts off!,” NHHS head coach Jim Beatty said. “We played hard.” Owen head coach Nathan Padgett saluted Knight effort. “They executed (plays) well, many times.”
Dylan Blackwell recovered a snap fumbled by Owen quarterback Caleb Scott. But an errant punt snap set up Owen at the North five, for the second TD. The second half was scoreless.
Then Tuscola beat North 42-22 last Friday. The 22 points were the most by North so far this year.
Quarterback Brian Payne has emerged as a Knight star runner. The junior’s three-yard quarterback draw was among scores against Tuscola. Payne repeatedly ran well against Owen, too. On a third down, he rushed for a first down to the Owen six as North nearly scored.
“Brian’s a good running quarterback,” Coach Beatty said. Payne replaced Brayden Corn, the initial starter who is out for the rest of the season with an injury.
Windell Flowers is running with more gusto. Rugged NHHS linebacker Tristen Norris returned against Owen, after getting hurt in the opener.
The Knights are at formidable Reynolds (3-2; 2-0 WMAC) this Friday. On paper, North’s best chance to get a win is in the finale which is Nov. 8 at Enka (1-4).
East Henderson (1-4) wears green uniforms and was overly “green” in saving energy on the visitor’s scoreboard for the last two Fridays. The Eagles fell 54-8 at Chase, then 50-6 at Polk as again the foe reached the 50-point mark.
East’s sole victory in 2019 thus far was 20-14 at North Henderson, in a fierce second-half comeback. Justin Heatherly’s Eagles are next at strong Mitchell (5-0), then start a tough Mountain Six slate at Brevard (4-1). BHS shut out Owen 20-0; Owen notched 42 in the second half at East to win that season opener.
East’s best chance to win again and for an M6 victory may be Oct. 25 at noisy Franklin. That is a tough place to play. But FHS (0-5) is also out of gear so far. The Panthers got skinned 49-0 by Mitchell Friday.
Hendersonville (3-2) had by far its worst performance of ‘19 in the 30-6 loss to Heritage, which proved it merited its top five 2A state ranking. The Burnsville Bunch led merely 8-0 at halftime, but scored twice in the decisive third quarter for a big 24-0 cushion.
HHS averted a shutout, scoring soon after getting the ball when a MHHS puntsnap sailed over the punter’s head. Heritage matched that TD.
Heritage’s Mikey Riddle ran seven yards for the sole TD of the first half.
That was set up by Callin Randolph’s fourth-down pass to Cole Shehan.
Shehan was a menace as a runner, tackler, and occasional receiver. He scored on a 52-yard pass play down the left side, covering most yardage after the catch. That was the second TD — that counted — with 2:37 to go in the third quarter.
Earlier Shehan took a screen pass from Randolph, then quickly fired the ball to wide open Jalen Branton in the end zone. That seemed the second TD — a 25-yard score, on third and 12 to go.
But it was waived off. Officials ruled the screen pass went forward instead of laterally or backwards, and thus they deemed the second pass illegal. Heritage sustained two big penalties on that play — first for an illegal pass, then 15 more yards in a bench penalty on coaches for their angry tirade protesting the call. That backed the ball to the HHS 49, and the drive fizzled.
Heritage routinely converts two-pointers and did so after its first three TDs. The Cougars missed a rare PAT attempt, after its final score.
Heritage’s defense was devastating. Grady Brooks made two huge plays. HHS had the ball at its 28, when a QB fumble bounced to the 240-pound defensive tackle. Brooks took it to the house, and MHHS opened up a 24-0 lead late in the third. Brooks and Branton each made an interception.
Shehan, a 6-2, 209-pound linebacker, delivered one of the most brutal tackles in memory, in area play.
Both of HHS’ losses were to run-dominant teams — Heritage, and at West Henderson in a much closer (16-13) contest in week two.
If HHS and Heritage collide again in playoffs, it likely is again in Burnsville. The Cougars already have an overall record two games better, and often go unbeaten in Western Highlands action. HHS shifted from the WHC to the tougher M6.
Next, HHS is at nearby Polk (4-0) in a game televised on My40. The Cats are off next week, then start M6 play Oct. 11 by welcoming winless Franklin. FHS won at HHS two years ago. Hendersonville then plays at Smoky Mountain (3-2), hosts Pisgah (3-1) and Brevard, then goes to East. Games start at 7:30 p.m.