East Eagles, Bearcats Roll in Openers - TribPapers
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East Eagles, Bearcats Roll in Openers

West Falcon Truitt Manuel breaks a QB keeper Friday. Blockers are Hunter Davenport, at left, and Andrew Schultz at center. Manuel rushed for 182 yards and two TDs.

– Hendersonville scored nearly 80 points in its football opener Friday to set a school record, while in another dynamic feat East Henderson launched a new coaching era with a decisive road victory.

Hendersonville won 79-35 at North Henderson (NHHS). The 79 points broke the school modern-era mark of 75 that HHS scored in 2012 — also at NHHS. The Bearcats scored 70 at Mitchell a week later.

Last Friday West Henderson fell 54-21 to Chase. Chase is a new conference rival for HHS.

The Eagles landed in the victory column in Bobby James’ East coaching debut with a 47-8 conquest of Rosman. That snapped a 16-game losing streak. East had winless seasons in 2013, ‘16 and 2020-21 in this spring and two one-win campaigns in that span.

East and Rosman played twice last decade. East won both times — 35-28 at Rosman in 2017, then 40-14 at home en route to a 5-7 season in 2018. The game Friday was held in Brevard due to flooding of Rosman’s field.

‘Fly, Eagles, Fly’

“We executed so well,” Coach James said. The Eagles were ready. James noted, “we simulate games in practice.”

James has more than 20 years of college coaching experience. He was head coach at Wingate then Limestone College (S.C.). He was Drake’s defensive coordinator. James was very active with in-game coaching and split-second analysis. East principal Brandon Scott was on the sidelines. He is among those very impressed with James’ game knowledge and fiery spirit.

East scored three touchdowns in the first ten minutes to lead 20-0. Bombs by 6-foot-1 sophomore quarterback Joe Justice sparked the Eagles. He connected with Isaac Burleson to get inside the 10. Justice’s first TD pass went to slot receiver Wesley Murray — merely 1:20 into the game.

East scored next on a long run by Marcus McCarson at the 5:24 mark. The line was “tremendous” in opening up holes, James said. Brody Lindsey and Gus Schilling are both 6-foot-3, 280-pound seniors.

Justice struck with a 37-yard TD pass to junior Bobby Adams down the right sideline. Justice tossed a pass to Murray for a two-pointer to lead 20-0. Freshman Lex Burns was the QB once starters were pulled after one series in the second half.

Adams opened the game with a long kickoff return to set the tone. One might tab East’s offense the “Justice League” or “Adams Family.”

East’s defense led by all-conference linebacker Nick Lyons put the clamps on QB Carson Lyday and other Tigers.

Cat Offense Goes Ballistic

Hendersonville led 35-7 after a quarter, and 73-28 after three quarters. “We scored every possession but one,” HHS head coach Jim Sosebee noted.

Gavin Gosnell threw for 342 of his 410 passing yards in the first half. Gosnell threw for three of those early TDs and ran for two more scores. He said he “built up chemistry with my receivers” and felt in sync with receivers right away thanks to the “short off-season.”

Gosnell heaved a TD bomb right to Lennard Benniefield in the final minute of the opening half. Benniefield is recent superstar HHS receiver Tykel Landrum’s brother. He also scored on a 55-yard interception return and a 77-yard kickoff return.

Malik Angram — son of East Eagle great Michael Angram — tallied three TDs for HHS. He scored on an eight-yard reception, 12-yard run, and lastly an 85-yard kickoff return. Coach Sosebee is pleased with special teams scoring three times and blocking a punt.

The Bearcats were a point away from the 2A state finals in the spring. The dramatic semifinal loss to Heritage makes the Cats extra hungry. “We come together as a team,” Gosnell said. “We played for each other — because we love each other.”

Eagle Bobby Adams (1) sprints ahead of Rosman’s Marley McCall (2) on a 37-yard TD reception to blow open the game. East won 47-8. East Henderson Principal Brandon Scott watches.

Oft-Starring Croft

Knight highlights included Jaylen Croft’s trick pass to Carter Whiteside for a 78-yard TD. That tied the game at seven. Former Bearcat Hazahn Collington raced 74 yards on a TD run. QB Jaxson Willis hurled a strike up the middle to Croft —  leading the ace receiver as he sprinted into the end zone and reached up for the catch. That cut the lead to 49-21. NHHS head coach Jim Beatty noted the Knights persisted offensively.

Chasing Chase’s McCombs

Chase Trojan Marqies McCombs ran for five TDs and scored on a kickoff return at West. He totaled 346 yards – averaging 58 — on five of his six scoring plays. The swift junior scooted behind Chase’s blubbery line led by 6-4, 385 Kadin Metz.

It was tough to game plan as this substitute game was arranged the day before. West’s original foe, East Rutherford, cancelled its season due to too few players. Chase’s would-be opponent Mountain Heritage canceled reportedly to follow COVID precautions.

‘Truitt Grit’ Falcons

Star receiver-back Truitt Manuel played QB for West. The super sophomore once was Hendersonville Middle’s QB. Regular QB Lukas Kachilo is “day to day” with an injury to his throwing shoulder’s rotary cuff, Falcon head coach Paul Whitaker said. Doctors estimate Kachilo might miss mere days to three weeks.

“Number 12 (Manuel) put us on his back,” Whitaker said. “He’s a gamer. He’s a leader — in the classroom, at practice and in games.”

Manuel rushed for 182 yards and two scores on 20 carries (9.0 ypc.). He scored on runs of 13 then 57 yards in the fourth quarter against Trojan starters. Manuel threw to Lucas Corn for a 16-yard scoring play to open West’s scoring a minute into the second quarter. Falcon Cameron Banks caught four passes.

This coming Friday pits West at Hendersonville. North Henderson welcomes Rosman. East has the week off.

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