Hendersonville – Hendersonville brings in a talented local quarterback, to go with swift and seasoned skill players for what shapes up as a resurgent season.
Look for HHS to bounce back after slipping to 7-6 then 5-7 in the past two seasons. The Bearcats usually are strong contenders, under head coach Jim Sosebee with his vaunted spread offense. Starting this season they won a 35-27 thriller over Polk County, then fell at playoff nemesis Heritage ahead of their Mountain Six (M6) Conference schedule. This is the Bearcats’ final year in the M6, before realignment puts them and Brevard into a newly-formed conference.
HHS returns seven on defense, and eight on offense — most receivers, half of the offensive line and a lead back, to go with its new quarterback.
Gavin Gosnell (6-2, 205 jr.) passed for 235 yards and a touchdown in his Bearcat debut. He put HHS up for good over Polk with a five-yard TD scamper. He rushed for 85 yards. Four times, HHS converted first downs on third and 20 or more yards to go. Then at Heritage, Gosnell again both ran and threw for scores. He threw for a two-point conversion. He is a transfer who started as a sophomore for East Henderson in ‘19.
“Gavin’s super smart,” Sosebee said. “He gets us into the right protection. He changes plays as needed. He can throw and run — like Bud (Williford) and Michael Schmidt did.” Sosebee praised how Gosnell “kept firing” while pressured by Polk. Gosnell called that comeback win “amazing.”
Swift scat back Jayleon “Jay” Gaines (5-10, 165 sr.) is among a handful of “4.4 to 4.5 guys,” Sosebee noted. Gaines surpassed 800 rushing yards last season. He ran for 95 yards and a TD versus Polk, then dashed for two TDs at Heritage. “Jay’s very fast, has great vision and makes lateral cuts,” and also blocks well, Sosebee said. His understudy, freshman Malik Angram (5-9, 158 fr.), has many of the moves his father Michael Angram made famous for East Henderson a decade and half ago.
Receiver Triston Peterkin (5-9, 160 sr.) reeled off 127 yards and a score on seven catches in the opener. Dorian Allen (5-11, 170 sr.) made an acrobatic catch, among his six receptions for 68 yards against Polk. Clay Sawtelle (6-2, 195 sr.) moves the chains with sure catches. Keyshawn Smith (5-10, 170 sr.) caught the two-point conversion pass Friday. Fabian Mills (5-10, 170 sr.), Lennard Beddiefield (5-10, 164 so.) and Eric Rasheed (5-10, 160 so.) are other receivers.
Tight end Alex Lemmens (6-4, 260 sr.) is a “weapon,” Sosebee said. He is quite strong and athletic. He made several deep catches in ‘19. Lemmens will play TE instead of tackle, if other tackles do well enough, Sosebee said. Burly Lemmens is the center on the basketball team that played in the 2A state finals Saturday.
Anchoring the line is workhorse fourth-year center Trevor Musselwhite (6-1, 325 sr.). Lamb returns at left guard. Joining them are RT Cooper Wilson (6-4, 295 jr.), RG Reece Wilson (5-10, 220 so.) and LT Heath Gray (6-4, 240 jr.). The line is a mix of size and quickness. Sosebee said, “They’re a fun group. They get along well. There are no big egos there.”
New kicker Cooper King (5-11, 165 so.) drilled two field goals against Polk.
Coach Dustin McAfee’s multiple defense features LBs Malachi Jacobs (6-3, 160 so.), Paul Orr (5-10, 190 so.), Lemmens, Logan Lands (6-1, 180 sr.) and Jajuan Givens (5-9, 170 sr.) who twice downed Polk’s punter — once for a safety. Ellison Hunter (5-10, 245 so.) made a key sack in the opener. His D-linemates include Musselwhite, Brock Stepp (6-3, 250 so.) and Logan Lands (6-1, 180 sr.). Cornerbacks are Jaluan Givens (5-6, 132 sr.) and Isaac Payton (5-4, 140 sr.), with Smith at safety.
“We’re looking for our offense and senior leadership to lead us through” early into this season, Coach Sosebee said. The only automatic playoff berth in the M6 is the champion, making the conference race more important than ever.