Sports

Cougars, Rockets Roll; Knights Slay Tuscola

Asheville QB Khalil Conley (9) runs past West’s Ethan McMinn (15). Falcon Lukas Corn (5) wards off the block of Cougar Noah Shaw (10).

Asheville Asheville Cougars shut out West Henderson 24-0 on the road Friday behind a staunch defense and three Lamarius Jones rushing scores, in a tuneup for hosting preseason conference favorite A.C. Reynolds this Friday night.

Reynolds has already passed two tests in the last two weeks, in Western Mountain Athletic Conference. The Rockets (3-0) beat Erwin 49-29, then pulled away from T.C. Roberson (2-1) to cruise 63-40 at home Friday.

ACR broke up a close 28-21 game to lead 49-21, by scoring the next three touchdowns starting with Marc Golden’s three-yard plunge. Golden ran 51 yards for the next TD, early in the third quarter. MLB Golden snatched a fumble and sacked Brody Whitson.

Down 7-6, ACR’s Sayvon Haydon-Gibson took a short pass to the house for a 63-yard score. After a swap of TDs, Asher Cunningham took a screen for a 58-yard TD after he scooped up his own fumble while sprinting full-tilt. That made it 28-14, after an explosive first quarter. “Masher Asher” — as the Tribune has named him — ran for two TDs, starting with the opening score.

But Whitson hit Zharius Looper for a 27-yard score, to cut the deficit to 28-21.

Then came Golden’s two rushing scores, and Cunningham’s second TD run. Makhi Ikeme ran 36 yards for an early TD. Carter Lindsay totaled 233 scrimmage yards as the QB in the win over Erwin a week before but injured his throwing arm. Still, he scored the last two Rocket TDs against TCR — taking a screen pass 51 yards, then dashing 43 yards for the final score.

Freshman Rocket quarterback Ricky Tolbert threw for three TDs and 280 yards, completing all but three of his 15 passes.

Ram senior Whitson passed for 367 yards and three TDs, and ran for two scores including a 29-yarder. Looper ran for a TD. TCR welcomes West Friday.

Knights Slay Tuscola

North Henderson (3-0) kept pace with Reynolds as an unbeaten in the WMAC, at 2-0. Coach Jim Beatty’s Knights won a barnburner in Waynesville, by 32-28 over Tuscola to get to sip the victory Tus-Cola. That follows the Knights’ 13-8 win at West, proving they can win a defensive struggle or see-sawing joust. They have won four in a row since snapping a 29-game losing streak last season.

NHHS Defensive Coordinator Zach Wilkins said a bonus was “how we won in the final moments. It showed the kids they are capable of winning, and being a solid team.”

Trevon Hill ran three yards for the winning score — and his second TD Friday — with 10:23 left. Tuscola keyed on Hill, opening up Jaxon WIllis’ passing. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 215 yards. Willis hit Zach McDaniel (9 rec., 141 yds.) on TD pass plays covering 50 and 20 yards in the first half.

Knight Jaylon Croft returned a kickoff for a TD. The Knight defense yielded merely 106 yards of offense. Colton Laughter made a sack. Xander Roper and McDaniel each picked off a pass.

The North Bowl is this Friday between two rising programs, as North Buncombe (2-1; 1-1 WMAC) hosts North Henderson. NBHS eased past Enka 48-19. Enka (0-3) gets Rosman (0-3) at home Friday.

Cougars are on the Prowl

Meanwhile, Asheville (2-1) is redeveloping power running that made it the conference top dog the decade before last. Lamarius Jones rushed for all three TDs up the middle against West (0-3; 0-2 WMAC). Jones zig-zagged six yards, taking a “wildcat” direct shotgun snap for his first score. Next, also in the second quarter, he bounced off of three Falcons for a four-yard TD. He saved his best score for last — a swift 14-yard scamper in the third quarter.

Cougar head coach Cort Radford said he was impressed by how Jones saw his huge linemen open up holes, and he charged ahead and “stayed behind our big boys” — rather than hesitate or dance about as some runners do.

Sophomore QB Khalil Conley made some key runs and pass completions. A pivotal factor this Friday is whether Conley or ACR’s Tolbert do better as dual-threat QBs. Asheville TE Canter Clark gained 31 yards after Conley stepped ahead as if running but tossed a pass to Clark.

“We executed well” on such plays, Coach Radford said. He called the shutout “huge. It shows preparation matters.” Still, “We got a long way to go. We’re still trying to play up to our potential.” AHS edged Tuscola 13-12 a week earlier but needs the more consistent offense to keep up with Reynolds.

AHS showed what its offense can do with a 17-point blitz in the final 8:33 of the second quarter, to break open a scoreless tie. The Cougars got a TD run then a field goal in the final three minutes, as West turnovers set up short drives. West head coach Paul Whitaker called it the turning point.

With fourth down from his eight, freshman punt Truitt Manuel boldly ran a fake punt 14 yards for a first down. West soon after attained first and goal to go, but was stopped on downs. West knocked off AHS 35-20 last season, and was WMAC runner-up.

In other Buncombe teams’ games, Erwin fell 35-28 to 1A Robbinsville. Owen (2-1) lost its WHC opener, by 42-14 at Mitchell. Owen plays at Polk Friday.

Also in 2A play, Hendersonville (1-2) lost its M6 opener 31-27 at Franklin. Bearcat QB Gavin Gosnell scored the first TD, on a two-yard TD keeper. He sparked that drive with a key 30-yard completion to Dorian Allen, after scrambling left then back to the right side before firing the ball deep. This Friday, HHS welcomes Smoky Mountain (1-2). East Henderson (0-3) is at Pisgah (3-0). The Eagles fell 14-0 to Brevard, on Homecoming.

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