Sports

Roberson, Erwin, Owen Notch Big Opening Wins

Owen’s Dequan Boyce charges past West Falcons Saturday. Warhorses include Nich Roberts (50) at left, Blake Roberts (11) and Keegan Lyda (3).

Asheville

T.C. Roberson, Erwin, A.C. Reynolds and Owen were big winners as public high school football returned in Buncombe County this past weekend with much drama, im- impressive quarterback debuts and rain on Friday night.

Erwin defeated North Buncombe 35-21. In his Warrior quarterback debut, Korey Griffith often connected with Johnny Peay — most notably with a “Hail Mary” 38-yard touchdown lob despite a tight double team, on the final play of the first half. Griffith opened, scoring with a 69-yard jaunt down the right side.

Owen also won by two touchdowns Saturday afternoon, doubling up West Henderson 28-14 behind veteran QB Caleb Scott. Owen led 22-8 in the first half on TD runs by Blake Roberts, Scott, then Dequan Boyce. Scott returned a West fumble 60 yards for Owen’s other TD. He totaled 176 yards and one (unpenalized) wrestling skirmish. Boyce ran for 77 yards (7.7 ypc.).

Those two games were de- layed a day due to heavy and prolonged rain expected for Fri- day. That forecast was spot on.

But two other Buncombe games went on as scheduled on that chilly and rainy Friday night. As expected, Reynolds rolled over Enka 53-0 after leading 33-0 at halftime. New Rocket QB Ricky Tolbert threw for 173 yards. Asher Cunningham ran for 78 (5.6 ypc.). Carter Lindsay ran 33 yards for a score and caught a 40-yard TD pass.

The marquee matchup was Roberson defeating Asheville 34-25 in a de-facto instant elimination game for the Western

Mountain Athletic Conference title race. TCR led 14-10 at halftime after a scoreless opening quarter and outdid the Cougars 13-7 in the fourth quarter as both left-handed quarterbacks ran wild.

Brody Whitson passed for three TDs — two to fellow senior Rodney McDay as McDay beat double teams in the second half — and 237 yards in the sloppy weather. Whitson dashed for 65 net yards (4 ypc.), to surpass 300 total yards. His five-yard TD scamper to the left side reopened a two-score lead, to clinch victory with two minutes to go.

Asheville lost the game but confirmed its new quarterback has special talent and potential. Fast sophomore Khalil Con- ley ran for 137 yards (8 ypc.), slicing through tacklers’ arms and often dashing to his right around them. Conley passed for two TDs and 115 yards, completing two-thirds (10 of 15) of his passes. At times, he heaved darts while on the run.

New Cougar head coach Cort Radford was impressed with how well Conley read the Ram defense, to make instant decisions whether to keep the ball or throw. He also praised how AHS “fought” to stay in the game.

Workhorse back Lamarius Jones gained 83 yards (3 ypc.) on 28 carries. Another new bright spot is kicker Liam Boyd. He boomed a 35-yard field goal with a dozen yards to spare.

Radford said turnovers turned the tide, as AHS lost six fumbles. Two were off of Conley’s hands, in the slick weather. Both teams took advantage of short fields to score points.

Eventually, AHS put together a long 68-yard drive, as TCR could not contain Conley. On fourth and three at midfield, he sprinted left for 28 yards. He then ran for 13 yards, then tossed a nine-yard TD pass to Landon Miller. He converted a two-pointer, on a pass to Vasili Paulk and AHS pulled to within 21-18.

Conley “gashed us at times,” Roberson head coach J.D. Dinwiddie said. Yet his Rams also “played hard,” to prevail.

Kam White had 106 receiving yards, including TCR’s longest (27 yards) TD reception. The longest TD pass play of the night was 31 yards from Con- ley to Heff Finley. That pro-vided AHS its sole lead, at 10-7 five minutes before the half. But blown coverage left White alone in the end zone for his TD catch, to put TCR back ahead three minutes later.

In the second half, the squads traded TDs starting with Mc- Day’s first of two Ram TDs in a row. Brady Buckner’s PAT made it 21-10, for the largest lead. The TD pass to Conley retightened the score. After McDay’s 23-yard TD reception, AHS again struck back. Cougar blockers pushed big Ben Scott over the goal line, to cap his seven-yard TD run up the gut.

Yet the last laugh went to TCR, on Whitson’s keeper TD. With many official whistles and delays, the contest dragged on for three and a half hours.

Warriors Hold Off Hawks

Erwin also got a super performance from a new QB, in Pisgah transfer Griffith. He accounted for four TDs and passed for 203 yards. The Hail Mary put Erwin up 13-7 at halftime.

North Buncombe had gutty performances from runners Joe Jones and Trent Cole and QB Walker Corbin. The Hawks drove deep, stalled, but got the ball right back on Cole’s pick. But Erwin stripped the ball away on fourth down at the EHS seven.

Erwin hosts Reynolds this Friday, at 6 p.m.

The Hawks had the largest visiting crowd last weekend in Buncombe and Henderson counties.

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