Mills River – Hendersonville unveiled Lennard Benniefield as its new star quarterback Friday. West Henderson and A.C. Reynolds also won decisively, while T.C. Roberson and Erwin also won their conference football openers.
West Henderson (4-0; 1-0 M7) led North Henderson (2-2; 0-1) by 20-0 after a quarter and 37-0 at halftime en route to a 44-14 victory.
NHHS won the past two games in the series. The Falcons were determined to snap that streak emphatically, and they did so. Beating NHHS “feels great,” third-year varsity starter Truitt Manuel said. “It shows how much we have grown as a team over the past couple of years.”
Manuel’s 23-yard “pick six” made it 30-0. The star junior credited defensive colleagues’ blocks for helping spring him. He caught two touchdown passes from Lukas Kachilo, covering 10 yards for the first score and 16 yards for a 44-7 lead before halftime. His catch and long run to the Knight eight set up the second TD. Manuel had 93 yards on seven receptions. He has 30 catches for 417 yards and seven TDs in West’s four games.
Diego Castro scored two receiving TDs in a row. First, he slid while snaring the ball in the end zone. His second TD catch closed the first quarter with a 20-0 lead. NHHS blocked the PAT.
Kachilo completed two out of every three passes — 18 of 27, for four TDs and 231 yards. His four-game totals are 1,044 yards, 12 TDs, and four picks. Kachilo also scored on a fourth-down keeper for a 37-0 halftime lead.
Falcon head coach Paul Whitaker was pleased with how several Falcons contributed mightily. He praised West’s newest weapon, sophomore back Tayman Howell, in his first start. Howell was third in the state 3A/2A meet in 110-meter high hurdles as a freshman in May, and was on West’s 4x100m sprint relay team that was at state. “Tayman and Truitt can really go” fast, Whitaker said.
Howell rushed for nearly 100 yards — 97 on 12 carries, an average of eight a pop. In splitting the load, Number 13 had two more carries than the usual workhorse, Carson Dimsdale. Howell started since Dimsdale was “fighting shin splint issues in practice,” Coach Whitaker explained. “So we started Tayman. He’s another quality back. He gets confidence with more reps. ”
Dimsdale looked mighty healthy, sprinting down the sideline on a 33-yard gain to the three to set up a score. He ran for 68 yards in ’22 to total 454 yards (7.4 ypc.) in ’23. Total yards on offense favored the West by 416-142.
Falcon Then, Caleb Collany intercepted a pass at his own four and returned it 45 yards to set up the third TD. Next, Irbin Villafuerte booted a 40-yard field goal. Manuel’s pick six came 22 seconds later, and the rout was on at 30-0.
Jaxon Willis ran four yards for North’s first TD, soon after Bryson Meadows picked off a pass that Reece Meadows deflected. Willis threw to Drake Blackwell for a five-yard score.
A few miles away, East Henderson (2-3; 0-1 M7) fell 41-13 at home to Franklin (3-1). Down 20-0 at halftime, East got on the board as Joseph Justice hit Wesley Murray in the end zone for a 26-yard TD. Fatefully, West is East’s homecoming guest on Sept. 23.
The Falcons host Smoky Mountain on Sept. 30 for the Mountain Seven race. The Mustangs (3-2) held off Pisgah (1-3) 43-40 on Friday.
Hendersonville (4-1) launched its Mountain Football schedule with a 35-8 win at R-S Central (2-3). Lennard Benniefield, a veteran HHS receiver, got his first Bearcat varsity start at QB. He played some QB for Hendersonville Middle and as a JV freshman. On Friday, he showed quick instincts and accelerating speed—like his brother, recent Bearcat receiving great Tykel Landrum.
Two plays typified Benniefield’s knack for turning disaster (high shotgun snap) into success (first down). The first time, he eluded them and ran 25 yards to near the line of scrimmage. He threw himself entirely at the burly C.J. Landrum. Benniefield later scrambled and hit Tayshawn Collins for a first down.
“Lennard’s a gamer when the lights come on,” head coach Kirron Ward said. “He knows the entire offense—where every receiver is supposed to be.” That helps him quickly spot open receivers whenever he’s improvising.
HHS opened the scoring on a fourth-and-20 big play. Eric Rasheed took a screen 74 yards. The key was that “Eric made the first guy miss,” then eluded others, Ward said. “It’s hard to tackle him in a phone booth, let alone in an open field.” R-S scored for its sole lead at 8-7.
Hendersonville retook the lead 1:13 before halftime on Benniefield’s 26-yard pass to Landrum in the back of the end zone to lead 13-8 at the break. “C.J. made a great play,” Ward said.
The Cats pulled away in the second half. T.J. Lattimore recovered an R-S fumble in the third quarter. That set up Benniefield’s five-yard TD keeper. He threw to Collins for a two-pointer and a 21-8 lead. Hezzie Rudisill ran for the last two TDs-for 32 and five yards.
Landrum twice stuffed a Hilltopper on fourth down.
HHS outscored R-S 49-42 last season. This time, “we didn’t let their (triple option) run game wear us down,” Coach Ward said. “They got yards, but we didn’t break. We were more physical. We imposed our will. ”
After blasting Heritage (51-16), then R-S (35-8), on the road, HHS faces a third run-reliant team in Polk County with Angus Weaver at home on Sept. 23.
AC, TC, AHS, Erwin
The Reynolds Rockets were like cruise missiles, zooming across J.T. Davis Field in beating winless North Buncombe 48-0. ACR (4-1) led 41-0 at intermission, with a 258-3 total yard edge. Three Rocket sophomores shined. The first TD was on Hayden Craig’s screen to M.A. Skanes, who ran it 25 yards. Max Guest ran for four TDs—three in the first half and 148 yards (11.5 ypc.). He had 11 TDs rushing and four receiving in 2022.
Roberson (3-1) beat McDowell 48-28. Reno Jeter rushed for three scores and 141 yards (20 ypc.). He caught one of Lex Dinwiddie’s three TD passes. For a 66-yard score, Dinwiddie rolled right and tossed to Devon Hollis, who raced untouched seemingly all the way to New Orleans for a 66-yard score.
The closest MAC opener was Erwin (3-2) edging upstart Enka (1-2) and its prior head coach, Mike Sexton, by 20-14 at home, to win an E-E clash for the 15th consecutive time. Erwin Coach Rodney Pruett expected a “battle”-and got it.
Asheville (3-1) won 29-15 at North Davidson. AHS opens its MAC slate by hosting Erwin on Friday, Sept. 23. Owen fell 55-12 to Draughn.