Asheville – The Mountain Athletic Conference shrunk from nine teams back to seven — with six of them chasing frontrunner A.C. Reynolds in a year marked by exciting young quarterbacks.
One of those QBs – Enka’s Cam Wait – totaled nearly 300 yards as Enka was the sole public school in Buncombe County to win its opener Friday.
Enka Jets won 34-21 at Hayesville. They led 21-7 at halftime. Jet player emotions stayed “rock steady,” new head coach Mike Sexton said. “Whenever momentum swung the other way, we kept trudging. But when good plays happened, we capitalized.”
New QB Wait completed two-thirds (24 of 36) of his passes for 204 yards and two TDs Friday. “Cam is very efficient. He’s intellectual” and knows where the play can best work, Sexton said. Wait ran for 83 yards (7.0 ypc.) and a TD.
Matt Rogers caught 16 passes (two-thirds of those completions) for 123 yards and two TDs. “Matt was open the most” due to opposing coverage Sexton said. “We have a lot of bullets in our arsenal.”
LaDarrell Mashburn ran for 80 yards (4.0 ypc.) and a TD and caught four passes. Lathan Lunford ran for Enka’s other score.
Unbeaten Six in a Row
The conference drops “Western” at the onset of its name and is again simply the “MAC.” Reynolds has unleashed a Big MAC Attack by winning the league with unbeaten marks in the last six seasons. Gone from the MAC are three of the four bottom finishers in the spring season — West Henderson, North Henderson and Tuscola. Back in is McDowell.
The 4A schools are Reynolds, Roberson, Asheville and McDowell. The 3A teams are Erwin, Enka and North Buncombe. Gone are split classifications (i.e. 3AA, 3A). Instead all 3A teams are lumped together. The same goes for 4A, 2A and 1A.
Enka Jets won 34-21 at Hayesville. They led 21-7 at halftime. Jet player emotions were “rock steady,” new head coach Mike Sexton said. “Whenever Momentum swung the other way, we kept trudging. But when good plays happened, we capitalized.”
North Buncombe’s game at rain-drenched Swain was rescheduled to Monday, which is after press time.
‘Humvee’ Big Green Machine
Rocket head coach Shane Laws notes he has many new starters on defense. But ACR reloads around star linebackers Micah “Humvee” Hembree and Asher Cunningham and DB Deshawn Stone. “Masher Asher” said “I like hitting.”
Swift offensive Rockets include quarterback Ricky Tolbert, Mahki Ikeme and Hayezon Tobe. Tolbert started as a freshman. He said he is eager to “get better every day.” Laws savors four-year “stability” at QB. He said once Reynolds is again “extra athletic” with many “who can make plays.”
The aforementioned Rockets are players Laws brought to the MAC football preseason press conference sponsored by WNC Sports Network (WNCSN). It was held Aug. 4 in Asheville High’s auditorium. Head coaches spoke about their teams. The Tribune interviewed coaches and star players.
The marquee area matchup this Friday, Aug. 27 is ACR hosting Shelby.
Asheville head coach Cort Radford knows Rocket dominance. The 2007 Reynolds grad played football center when ACR and AHS were both powers. He debuted in the spring season in leading Asheville. The Cougars were 4-2 for third in the WMAC and a playoff berth. Huge AHS lineman Kadin Lynch wants to help write a golden new chapter in “our program’s history.”
Asheville has a star linebacker named Micah of its own – in Ward. AHS has singing speed. Strong-armed but erratic-throwing QB Khalil Conley is making “big strides,” Radford said. The tremendous outside runner ran a 4.53 at a recent combine at Duke; RB-WR Tre McGahee turned in a 4.56. As Coach Radford said, “we can ‘roll’.” Conley dashed 40 yards for a score Friday. But 1A Robbinsville out-hit the 4A Cougars, ran at will, and won 45-23.
Erwin’s strong-armed, husky new QB Iggy Welch said he is excited to get the controls to Erwin’s high-octane attack under head coach Rodney Pruett. Erwin reloads weapons from a JV squad that beat ACR to win the league. Erwin imported two-time 1,000-yard rusher Dallas Phillips from Enka. Phillips is having “fun” in this explosive offense. Tall receivers are Dylan Davidson, Demetrase Graves and Leighton Reynolds.
Erwin finished 3-3 in a three-way tie for fourth.
T.C. Roberson was league runner-up at 5-1 this spring. Coach Jason Dinwiddie is eager to “continue to build on the success of last season.” But he has to do it without the prolific 3,500-yard passing combo of Brody Whitson to Rodney McDay. They graduated. McDay was MVP of the East-West all-star football game.
Dinwiddie touts a drastic switch from the “sling it all over” spread to a run-based “flex bone.” Reno Jeter, Jack Cancel, Lorenzo Lyles and Shamar Darity are young backs. QB Kam White matches rival QBs’ running. The fast (4.5) senior former receiver is an elusive open-field runner.
Defensive Rams are aggressive “dogs,” MLB P.J. Deshauteurs said. LB Tyson Conner calls the defense “more physical.”
New Head Coaches
Two MAC teams have new head coaches. North Buncombe promoted offensive coordinator Zach Shook after Brandon Allen left in late July. Shook is age 27. The 2012 NBHS grad and former QB is fiery. He said the coaching transition tests overcoming “adversity.”
NBHS was 3-3 in the spring to remain mid-level in the MAC. “We’ll play with an edge — a chip on our shoulder,” Coach Shook said. “People might think North Buncombe will slip back … We’ll prove them wrong.” Edgy new QB Gabe Banks said “we’re all confident.”
As Ben Wyatt notes, “we’re known for running.” Wyatt, Riley Ledford and Bryson Peters will handle the load.
Enka hired Sexton to succeed Jeff Frady. Sexton won two of every three games with Erwin in nine seasons. He installed his quick-passing spread. He said the Jets are learning “new routines and expectations” of excellence. “He pushes us. He wants us to win,” Xander Godfrey said.
McDowell head coach Darrell Brewer said his “hard-nosed” Titans will “jump into (the MAC) and hope to hang on.”