Reidsville – Hendersonville lost 50-35 in round three of 2A football playoffs at Reidsville Friday but scored five out of six touchdowns midway to turn the contest into an exciting shootout.
Bearcat quarterback Gavin Gosnell passed for a TD and ran for two more scores. In his final HHS season, the senior led WNC by throwing for 3,317 yards and 30 TDs. He also rushed for 16 scores.
Reidsville won four of the past six 2A state crowns and seeks its fourth in a row. The Rams play this Friday at top seed Shelby — another dynasty – for the West Region title. Shelby destroyed East Gaston 64-15. Reidsville hosted HHS by being seeded barely higher — fourth versus fifth in the West. The Bearcats’ loss by 15 points was twice as close as any other team that came to Reidsville in this fall season. RHS won its 32nd game in a row.
The Rams were flippin’ with joy after their star receiver Queshyne Flippen scored on three TD receptions in the first half versus HHS. He averages two TD catches per entire game. He typically ran wild after getting short passes from fellow sophomore Al Lee. Both teams can return much skill in 2022, for a possible playoff rematch.
Reidsville (12-0) ran away from wherever big and athletic sophomore C.J. Landrum lined up on the HHS defensive front. Landrum surpassed 150 tackles for the season. The Rams often double-teamed to block heaviest Bearcat DL Cooper Wilson. Rugged RHS senior Shyheim Watlington rushed for four TDs and 203 yards.
Reidsville’s defense pressured Gosnell – often with delayed blitzes – and sacked him three times in the first half.
Hendersonville (10-2) got its footing in the second quarter to fight back from a 29-0 deficit. They chopped the lead in half and trailed by 15 points at 36-21 at halftime and again by the game’s end.
Senior Eric Rasheed gained 40 yards on a screen. That set up the first Bearcat TD. Gosnell was instinctively quick. He gathered in an errant snap. He avoided a sack — pitching back to 1,000-yard runner Hezzie Rudisill. Freshman Rudisill got outside, broke two tackles and zoomed 30 yards down the left sideline. That was his 16th rushing TD in this season.
RHS matched the TD to lead 36-7 at 2:26 before halftime. But HHS ignited on offense and special teams. Rasheed ran the kickoff 88 yards into the end zone. HHS recovered its onside kick. QB Gosnell engineered a two-minute drill. He scored on a four-yard keeper.
At intermission, HHS was down by two instead of four TDs and had momentum. The three HHS first-half TDs were the most the Rams yielded in a first half in fall 2021. HHS head coach Jim Sosebee is skilled in making adjustments at halftime and during a game’s flow. He said he is proud of the team’s fierce rally.
The Comeback Cats kept up their fury in the third quarter. Two fourth-down plays highlighted the next TD. Gosnell lowered his head and broke two tackles to reach the Ram 44, to set up fourth and two. A false start set HHS back five yards. That brought out the punt squad. But the snap went not to the punter, but instead to backfield blocker Elyja Gibbs. Sophomore Gibbs secured the first down. The backup QB faked out foes by acting as if the punt snap went over his head to the punter. Instead, it went to him and he took off.
Pulling to Within One
Hendersonville reached the RHS 31. HHS clicked on another fourth-down play — this time with eight yards to go. Rasheed reached up and caught Gosnell’s lob at the 11. He raced onward and dove as he spiked the ball atop the pylon for his 19th receiving TD of this fall. Cooper King’s PAT cut the lead to 36-28, with 9:40 left in the third quarter. Rasheed had nine catches for nearly 100 yards, to total 65 catches for nearly 1,200 yards.
On the next series, fortunes flipped for Flippen. He fumbled away the ball after a catch. Lennard Benniefield of HHS snatched the loose ball and returned it to the Ram 47. HHS punted. RHS drove past midfield. Yet the Bearcats snatched the ball away on a run, at their 30.
Benniefield did a Tykel Special – a la his brother Tykel Landrum – with a leaping catch between two defenders. But a blitzed Gosnell threw a screen incomplete, on fourth and eighth with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.
Hendersonville got the ball back quickly yet again. This time the Bearcats drove and scored on Gosnell’s four-yard keeper, with 10:28 to go. He gained eight yards running on the prior play. Gosnell moved the chains with key passes on that drive. Cooper King’s PAT shaved the RHS lead to 36-35.
HHS thus scored five out of six TDs in the game.
But then Watlington ran for two TDs at the 8:03 and 3:44 marks, sandwiched around an HHS punt. His final score was on a 47-yard burst up the middle. That drive used up over four critical minutes. RHS sealed victory with two picks. Gosnell threw merely three interceptions this fall, entering the game.