Canton – Coach Brett Chappell’s Pisgah is reigning co-champion in what is now the Mountain Seven and eager to repeat as champions.
The other co-champ was Hendersonville which edged PHS to be the top seed. The Bearcats and Brevard left what was the 2A Mountain Six to a new league. But three other schools rejoined after a four-year absence to make the league the Mountain Seven and now all-3A. They are West Henderson, North Henderson, and Tuscola.
Ah, Tuscola. The intense Pisgah-Tuscola rivalry grudge match is again a conference game and potential champion crowning clash. The last time that was the case was in 2016. Both teams were 7-0. “There was a lot on the line,” Chappell recalled. Pisgah won in overtime.
Chappell has won all eight games against Tuscola since taking over the Black Bears. This is an amazing streak and within a win of the series’ all-time streak. He said his players will “hear about it all week — in the community, and at home. They don’t want to be the team when the streak ends.”
Pisgah returns six starters on offense, merely four on defense – but with many seniors as new starters. There are 35 on varsity and 47 on JV.
Ian Rogers (5-8, 175 sr.) is promoted into a go-to rushing role. He is the prototypical gutty Bear runner, Chappell said. “Ian is a very physical runner. He has low gravity, and is hard to bring down.” Rogers was a WB-FB a season ago. Dez Rodriguez (5-8, 175 jr.) is a “sprinter in the open field” for a change of pace. WB-FB Gabe Nessman (5-10, 190 sr.) is a power runner.
Athletic Logan Free (5-10, 180 jr.) succeeds ‘21 grad Cain Early at quarterback. Free can run well and pass well, Chappell said. “We ran the ball, and threw more as the (spring) season progressed. We hope to be more balanced (with more passing) from the beginning, this season.” Free handles the ball on the hardcourt as well as a guard. His role is to “command the huddle, and distribute the ball.” His targets are red zone menace Caden Robinson (6-3, 180 jr.), quick inside receiver Evan Easton (5-10, 165 sr.) and TE Bailey Stockton (6-1, 215 sr.).
Big Bears are all-conference center Dylan McClellan (6-0, 260 sr.), tackles Colton Clark (5-9, 265 sr.) and Camden Moore (6-1, 285 so.), and guards are Seth Parrott (5-9, 220 sr.) and Jackson Morgan (5-11, 220 sr.). Three are returnees. With training following the spring season “we hope to be ahead of schedule” in mastering schemes, Chappell said.
McClellan said of camaraderie “we come together as one.” This is more than ever after flood damage to many local homes. He described Chappell as very challenging and encouraging.
A bonus point producer is all-M6 PK Luke Pinkston (5-9, 135 sr.). The co-captain is “good from 40 yards” for field goals, Chappell said.
The 4-3 base defense hinges around MLB Stockton. The M6 defensive player of the year in the spring made 87 tackles – as strictly measured. “Bailey is powerful, with speed. When he gets to you, you’re generally going down,” Chappell said. Also “he’s very smart. He understands the scheme. He’s instinctive in seeing plays develop,” Chappell said. “Our D-line keeps him protected, to run freely.” OLBs are Nussman andJackson Holland (5-10, 175 sr.).
Most Bears point to Tuscola as arch-rivals. Quiet Stockton got animated in saying how “I hate Franklin!”
Playoff competition is “ratcheted up” in 3A, Chappell said. Pisgah was 2AA in playoffs. There are no longer split brackets. This puts small 3A schools such as Pisgah and Tuscola against huge 3A teams in the postseason. This does not deter hope and enthusiasm. Coach Chappell said, “We’re excited.”