Black Mountain – The Warhorses are galloping up the area ranks behind the strong arm and legs of senior quarterback Caleb Scott, and three other experienced ball carriers behind a new offensive line.
Confidence is soaring in Black Mountain, after a break-through winning season.
“When you win games, it builds confidence,” said sixth-year head coach Nathan Padgett, a 1994 Owen grad. “Anytime you can have a season like we had, it helps. We went into the second round, and were 7-5.” The four wins in ‘18 were more than the three prior seasons combined. “Our third-year starters took some lumps. But now they’re seniors,” Padgett noted. Joining them is talent from junior varsity that was 9-1 in 2019, the prior season.
These Warhorses are eager to revive glory years — five Western Highland Conference titles in a row in 2002-06. In 2014, Owen won a school-best 12 times. That was Kenny Ford’s finale of 29 seasons as head coach. Padgett was a lineman for Ford and knows Owen’s fierceness.
Owen won 40-33 at Polk in ‘18, then defeated then-unbeaten Polk by 20-14 in ‘19 — to again finish third overall at 3-2 in the WHC behind Mountain Heritage and Mitchell. Beating Polk in ‘19 was “huge, an exciting game,” Padgett said. “It was a hard-fought battle — back and forth, like a boxing match.”
Owen’s near-upset of Heritage in ‘19 was a heart-breaker but fueled confidence. Owen still led at 15-14 after an MHHS field goal and was ready to run out the clock with two minutes left. But an MHHS squib kickoff bounced wildly, yet suddenly died on the Owen half-yard line. Heritage pounced on the free ball there, soon scored and won 22-15. Heritage eliminated Owen in round two of playoffs.
Owen made playoffs as runner-up to Heritage among the 2A/1A WHC’s 2A schools, ahead of Madison. But this time, only one gets in.
Owen won its opener in ‘19 at East Henderson 42-24, by scoring all of its points in the second half “Fantastic!,” Padgett proclaimed. “We made adjustments.” Owen gets 3A East again, right after opening at home on Feb. 26 versus rugged-running 3A West Henderson.
Emotional field general Caleb Scott (6-3, 220 sr.) ran for 205 yards versus East, and two of his seven rushing scores in 2019. He ran for 627 yards (4.4 ypc.) and had 1,929 total yards in 2019. Above all “Caleb can throw. He’ll take three-step drops, and get rid of the ball quickly,” Padgett said. Scott passed for over 1,300 yards, with a sparkling 4-1 ratio of 16 TDs to four interceptions. “His knowledge and accuracy will be better,” Padgett assured.
Three running backs are among five returning offensive starters. The main tailback Dequan Boyce (6-0, 190 sr.) came in from McDowell. He led a balanced Owen rushing attack in 2019 with 724 yards — averaging nearly ten yards a pop — and ran for seven TDs. He blazed 95 yards for his longest run. Boyce blends power and speed. “He hits the hole fast and is quick in open space. He has power, as well,” Padgett said.
Blake Roberts (5-8, 175 sr.) is the “I” fullback, or a tailback when Owen switches to the spread. “Blake is a very powerful runner. He’s tough between the tackles,” Padgett said. Roberts ran for 181 of 504 yards (7.1 ypc.) in ‘19 against East with three TDs. Boyce ran for 111 yards and two scores in that opener.
Shavoy Harding (6-2, 165 sr.) is the fastest (4.6) Warhorse. He was a back in ‘19, and now is a receiver. Harding took three of his ten receptions in ‘19 into the end zone. Padgett said Harding can line up as a back to run or go out for passes, or motion pre-snap to the slot or out wide — yet run wide jet sweeps. Other receivers are returning flanker Jacob Price (6-2, 175 jr), leaper Hunter Inabinett (6-3, 180 so.) and quick Eli Lanter (5-11, 165 jr.).
The new O-line is “quicker and more agile” minus ‘20 grad Saevion Gibbs (330 lb.). Pulling guards are Sam Gray (6-0, 230 sr.) and Aidan Paige (6-3, 200 sr.). The center is Nich Roberts (6-0, 185 sr.). Tackle candidates are Peyton Rickard (6-6, 215 jr.), Jarrett Tweed (6-0, 210 jr.) and Brett Gaynor (5-11, 210 jr.).
The multiple defense’s starters include OLB-SS Keegan Lyda (5-11, 190 sr.), DE Everett Vale (6-1, 190 sr.), and DT Ethan Tremble (6-5, 365 jr.) who can make foes tremble. Owen is using Reynolds’ blueprint for defensive speed and pursuit, Coach Padgett noted. “We have a chance to compete for the conference championship. We can do it.”