Mills River – Trevon Hill did a Houdini-esque escape of a seemingly sure tackle to run for a first down and set up his winning touchdown, scoring both North Henderson TDs in the Knights’ dramatic 13-8 triumph over arch-rival West Henderson Friday.
In winning its WMAC opener, North (2-0) made more big plays than West (0-2) did late in a see-saw battle. The low-scoring contest was a “green” game, in conserving scoreboard electricity.
In other WMAC action, Asheville edged Tuscola 13-12. Reynolds won 49-29 at Erwin, and Roberson beat Enka 34-7. In non-conference games, North Buncombe beat Madison 54-37 while Owen blanked East Henderson 47-0. Hendersonville lost 40-27 at Heritage, after a close 16-14 halftime score.
Hill is the Knights’ flashy 5-foot-6 transfer from T.C. Roberson. He scored the opening touchdown, taking a Jaxson Willis screen for a 78-yard touchdown dash down the left sideline. That was with 1:34 to play in the first quarter.
Hill made the play of the game in the fourth quarter. It sustained the Knights’ 12-play, five-minute winning drive. He seemingly channeled two magicians — legendary escape artist Houdini and NFL Hall of Fame runner Barry Sanders, who evaded defenses with lateral moves and sudden direction reverses.
Hill evoked plenty of Barry, in a fourth-and-one play from the West ten. First, he broke Lucas Kinsey’s tackle deep in the backfield — to avoid turning over the ball on downs. Hill danced about to his right as he was barely touched. He then darted left toward the left sideline, cut upfield, and reached the seven-yard line for a first down. He seemingly ran for 2,000 yards on that play — to gain three pivotal yards.
Two plays later, Hill scored on a five-yard scamper, with 3:33 to play. The Knights started the drive at the 41. Hill ran just enough for a first down, on fourth and one. Backed up by a holding call, NHHS faced second and 19 to go. But Willis connected with Jaylon Croft for 21 yards and a first down. Hill’s miraculous run on fourth down soon followed.
After Hill’s TD run, West’s Daveon Galloway picked off North’s try for two points. That kept the score at 13-8, favor North. West could win by scoring a touchdown, not needing the point after.
Falcon freshman phenomenon Truitt Manuel made his own heroics in the following drive, which eventually fell short on downs. Manuel returned the kickoff 40 yards, to the Knight 43.
The game resumed its back-and-forth tug of war of big plays and momentum. Kinsey was dropped for a six-yard loss on a run.
But on third and 19 yards to go, Manuel caught Lukas Kachilo’s pass and dashed around the right side for a gain of 31 yards to the 22 yard-line.
The pendulum kept swinging. A sack set up fourth and 11 to go. Kachilo rolled right and completed a pass to tight end Trey Nash at the ten. Nash surged to the four, for a 19-yard gain. Falcon fans went wild.
But the drive bogged down in the final minute. Knight gang tackling set West back 11 yards on two runs, to the 15. An incompletion on fourth and goal clinched North’s win, with eight ticks left on the clock.
The Knight defense bent but did not break, swarming to the ball when it counted most. “I’m proud of our defense, flying around and coming up big when we had to,” NHHS head coach Jim Beatty said. “We were bowing our necks. We kept them from scoring in the end.” He praised DC Zach Wilkins’ schemes and timeout pep talks.
Beatty said QB Willis threw well and cut down on turnovers.
West head coach Paul Whitaker said, “We came up a play short.” He praised the big plays in that final drive.
Game star Hill said “it feels great to go 2-0. Our hard work is paying off.” He shined on defense, too, by making many key tackles and riding Kachilo to the ground for a sack.
West took an 8-7 lead with 8:19 remaining in the third quarter, on Kinsey’s five-yard TD run then his two-point conversion run. Kinsey and Hunter Wallace powered this drive with big gains on runs. Manuel’s interception foiled the ensuing Knight drive at the 12, a minute and a half into the fourth quarter.
But North got the ball back and put together a grinding West-like drive to eat up clock, take the lead and leave West with little time to come back. Yet West nearly did.
Interceptions were made by Knights Croft and Xander Roper, and Falcons Lukas Corn and Manuel.
In this Friday’s marquee WMAC match, the AC-TC current sizzles as Reynolds hosts Roberson. West welcomes Asheville. Enka hosts North Buncombe. North Henderson is at Tuscola. Erwin is at Robbinsville. These games start at 6 pm.
In Mountain Six games, East Henderson hosts Brevard at 7 pm while Hendersonville at Franklin starts at 7:30 pm Friday.